Number-crunchers will make sense of a century of surveys

A A A

The forthcoming investigation into the decline of the house sparrow, to be announced by the Government today, is partly to be a giant number-crunching exercise - one of the biggest ever carried out in the world of ornithology.

The forthcoming investigation into the decline of the house sparrow, to be announced by the Government today, is partly to be a giant number-crunching exercise - one of the biggest ever carried out in the world of ornithology.

It will involve extensive analysis of several of the large long-running surveys which make Britain's birds the most closely monitored in the world.

Six surveys in particular will be examined by computer for evidence of patterns of decline in sparrows in towns, suburbs and the countryside, and for similar declines in starlings. Some of them are confusingly similar (except to experts) but all give valuable information.

The oldest is the National Ringing Scheme, which dates back to 1908. Recoveries of ringed birds can give data on their movements and on how long they live: there are thought to be records on 400,000 sparrows that have been ringed and about 6,000 that have been recovered.

The Nest Records Scheme, started in 1939, gives information on numbers of eggs, egg-laying dates and how successful are different broods. It is done for more than 200 species and involves about 40,000 records a year. Currently, about 250 house sparrow nest records are being received annually.

The Common Bird Census, which started in 1962 and ends this year, is a territorial mapping exercise which indicates how many birds are in a given area and is done on 300 countryside plots across Britain. It has many thousands of sparrow records, as does its replacement, the Breeding Bird Survey, which covers 2200 plots much more randomly chosen, some of them in urban areas.

Suburbs and towns are covered by The Garden Bird Feeding Survey, which goes back to 1970 and covers 200 gardens across Britain, and the much more extensive Garden Birdwatch, which began in 1995 and has 13,000 contributors.

Dr Humphrey Crick, the British Trust for Ornithology scientist leading the enquiry, said: "We have millions of pieces of data and what's good is that much of it is very long-term. We're going to combine the information and interrogate the data sets to see how and where things have changed and what the factors affecting the birds are."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project