Easily recognised by their brown plumage and chattering calls, sparrows are probably the most well-known birds in Malta. However, due to the abundance of these birds, they can often be taken for granted and not considered as exciting as their colourful cousins.
So, on the 20th March, BirdLife Malta is celebrating these birds on World Sparrow Day! In honour of the sparrows, we will be holding activities at Is-Simar and Għadira nature reserve, including a nature trail for families to learn facts about sparrows, an activity for kids to colour paper sparrows and build their own roosts by attaching these on to a giant cardboard tree, thus learning about sparrow roosting behavior.
In Malta, there are two breeding species of sparrows; Spanish Sparrows (Għasfur tal-Bejt) and Tree Sparrows (Ġaħġaħ). Although similar in appearance, Spanish Sparrows have become more adapted to living in urbanised areas and are undisturbed by humans, making them a lot easier to spot, unlike the more reclusive Tree Sparrow. It is also not uncommon to see sparrows with abnormal colourings in Malta from entirely albino to melanistic, all-black sparrows!
Despite being a common breeding bird in Malta, monitoring sparrows is just as important as it is with rarer species as their populations can act as a key indicator to environmental changes which could affect other species.
To help research the sparrow populations and inspire more people to appreciate nature on their doorstep, BirdLife Malta began a citizen science project in November 2014 ‘Spot a Sparrow’. The project, aims to encourage an interest in Maltese nature by actively involving people from the local community to help map Malta’s sparrow populations, by recording sparrow roost sites. As part of the project, BirdLife Malta also works together with local councils, contractors and decision makers involved in tree maintenance in order to protect important trees. Since closing the project, we received over 160 roost reports, with over 5,000 people engaged in the project.
This World Sparrow Day, join us in learning more about this important, yet often overlooked little bird.
By Jessica Irwin, BirdLife Malta Communications Assistant