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Brussels blackbird population halved and sparrows all but gone

16:03 13/07/2021

There are very few sparrows living and nesting in the Brussels region, and the blackbird population has fallen by half in the last 30 years, according to a study carried out by environment agency Environnement.Brussels.

All told, the bird population in Brussels has declined by 16% since the early 1980s, according to the agency, which carries out a bird count project every year. The reasons for the decline are various, Olivier Beck of Environnement.Brussels told VRT.

In terms of the blackbirds, the usutu virus is partially to blame. Carried by mosquito, it races through the blackbird population and is always deadly. But the warmer, drier climate also makes it harder for blackbirds to find food in the ground. “And there might be other stress factors in the city that we are as yet unaware of,” said Beck.

Biologist Anne Weiserbs emphasises that bird populations are decreasing in other large European cities as well, but that Brussels figures are particularly marked, especially where sparrows are concerned. “There are hardly any left,” she told RTBF.

A little grain and a thick hedge go a long way to convincing sparrows to stick around  ©Jeff Jones/

The main reason might not be good for biodiversity, but it is good for sustainable energy. “As houses and buildings get renovated and better insulated, birds – and especially sparrows – can’t find places to build nests anymore,” said Weiserbs.

The common house sparrow got that name for a reason, she points out. “They have always nested in holes and cavities in facades and roofs, but there are fewer of those spaces to find.”

Another reason for the near extinction of the sparrow in Brussels is that fewer people keep chickens, and the feed also fed the sparrows. There is something we can do to help the sparrow feel at home in the city, though, says Weiserbs. “Providing plenty of hedges and bushes, where they like to gather and make nests, helps a lot.”

Photo top: ©Christian Hauzar/


Written by Lisa Bradshaw



Yes, it is very sad that birds don’t find a habitat and food to survive in big cities. What would be good for the birds would also enhance the healthy environment of people! Hedges and trees. Easy to provide the needed food. Very sad for all of us to miss out on bird songs!

Nov 25, 2021 09:15