Be a good guv’nor, make room for cockney sparrers!

Tuesday 9th November 2010

They hang out in gangs, chatter ceaselessly and have a notoriously healthy appetite. But these cheeky birds are no longer a regular sight around our city centres.

The house sparrow would once have been considered our most common bird but it is estimated there are ten million fewer in the UK today than 25 years ago. In the latest issue of Natural World, The Wildlife Trusts’ magazine, we hear about London Wildlife Trust’s innovative Cockney Sparrow project, working with residents of east London housing estates to restore wildlife areas in an effort to boost the recovery of the sparrow.

Teaming up with social landlord Peabody, London Wildlife Trust has forged relationships with residents in socio-economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods, educating them about the plight of the sparrow and what they might do to help on their estates. And it’s not just sparrows that are benefiting. The Cockney Sparrow project is all about showing estate residents that wildlife has a place in their lives - that it can enrich, inform and inspire no matter how concrete the jungle may appear.

“The key is working together with local people on hands-on conservation.” Says Mark Pearson, London Wildlife Trust’s Cockney Sparrow project officer. “We get involved in planting hedges, grasses and flowers to create habitat and for insect food, visiting wildlife reserves and green spaces in London, and recording wildlife. Doing these things inspires a sense of ownership and connection between people and the environment around them. With knowledge comes a sense of responsibility, and everyone’s a winner."

Of all the species in the UK that need a helping hand, house sparrows are a fantastic example of where people can take practical action in their own gardens to make a difference, and Natural World offers a six-point guide to doing so.

Mark continues: “The reaction of Peabody residents has been overwhelmingly positive. Schoolchildren who once reported that they ‘hated birds’ are now running wildlife clubs and spending break times watching birds from the school playground.”

Work to protect house sparrows is also afoot in the west country, where Avon Wildlife Trust is running its Wild Sparrows project. The aim is to encourage the public to report sightings, and to ensure they are making space for sparrows in green spaces within their communities, be they gardens or school grounds.

To find out more about the Cockney Sparrow project visit, or to find get involved with the Wild Sparrows project visit For more information on how you can help your local sparrows and other wildlife contact your local Wildlife Trust. Details can be found at


Story by RSWT