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Noisy and cheeky, they used to be a regular sight in people's gardens as one of Britain's most common birds.
But the number of house sparrows has more than halved since the seventies, and a new study suggests 'avian malaria' may be to blame.
Malaria - Spread - Mosquito - Sparrows - Starvation
Avian malaria, spread by mosquito, can make sparrows lethargic and unable to eat, killing many through starvation.
Researchers who tracked sparrows in 11 suburbs of London have now discovered almost three-quarters carry the infectious disease.
Temperatures - Weather - Malaria - Concerns - Havoc
As warming temperatures and wetter weather may help avian malaria to thrive, there are concerns it could wreak havoc in the sparrow population, similarly to the trichomonosis parasite in British greenfinches.
The study, led by the Zoological Society of London, concludes that the disease particularly affects juvenile birds, which are vital for breeding to maintain sparrow numbers.
Dr - Daria - Dadam - Study - Trust
Dr Daria Dadam, who led the study and now works for the British Trust for Ornithology, said: 'Parasite infections are known to cause wildlife declines elsewhere and our study indicates that this may be happening with the house sparrow in London. We tested for a number of parasites, but only Plasmodium relictum, the parasite that causes avian malaria, was associated with reducing bird numbers.'
Sparrows are among Britain's best known birds, hard to miss in their noisy, constantly chirping groups. They show little fear of people, whose gardens they raid for scraps of food.
Population - Cent - Declines - Areas - London
But their population has fallen by 70 per cent between 1977 and 2016, with declines in both urban and rural areas. In London's suburbs, which were the focus of the new research, house sparrow numbers are down 71 per cent from 1995.
Researchers took blood and faecal samples from sparrows in areas ranging...
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