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Widespread local house-sparrow extinctions

Agricultural intensification is blamed for the plummeting populations of these birds.


House-sparrow populations have declined sharply in Western Europe in recent decades1,2, but the reasons for this decline have yet to be identified, despite intense public interest in the matter. Here we use a combination of field experimentation, genetic analysis and demographic data to show that a reduction in winter food supply caused by agricultural intensification is probably the principal explanation for the widespread local extinctions of rural house-sparrow populations in southern England. We show that farmland populations exhibit fine-level genetic structuring and that some populations are unable to sustain themselves (sinks), whereas others act as sources.

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Figure 1: Annual productivity, survival rates and effect of supplementary feeding on rural house-sparrow populations.


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Correspondence to David G. Hole.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Hole, D., Whittingham, M., Bradbury, R. et al. Widespread local house-sparrow extinctions. Nature 418, 931–932 (2002).

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