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Byron Shire
June 15, 2024

The ironic sparrow

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Reading last week’s Echo, I was struck by the image of a sparrow apparently wearing one of those Santa hats, which have become ubiquitous during the season to spend (and for some) make money. I suppose from the perspective of an advertising agency this would be a palpable hit. But I found the photoshopped image ironic. I hear some now saying, ‘Get a life’, but here is why:

For years there were always numbers of house sparrows in the environs of Byron Bay. I always liked to see them, even though they can be pugnacious little birds that would grab nesting places from other birds sometimes. I knew that populations were dwindling in Britain, and as far as I know no one could offer a conclusive explanation. But I felt that here at least they were still around in modest numbers. But over the last few years they seem also to be so reduced in their numbers I have not seen a single specimen, even where I would once spot them. 

It is possible that other pugnacious interloper, the Indian Mynah, has replaced them; but I rather doubt it.

I knew a few years ago a colony roosted in a clump of bamboo. This was cut down during a development. But I felt the birds might find an alternative.

I am prepared to believe these observations mean little to many people; but to my mind they are part of the increasing warnings that the planet is demonstrating of the situation we are all facing. The drop in bird populations is not limited to the sparrow.

I am currently reading a book about the insect crisis, the huge (estimated) drop in all insect populations around the world. I do not need the experts to tell me of these changes. It is not just the honeybee that is in dire trouble, it is almost all the insect biomass. This includes other valuable insect pollinators, such as flies and wild bees and wasps. The intricate web of interrelations and knock-on effects of all the ramifications are truly disturbing.

Of course, climate change, human populations, agribusiness etc. are all interrelated factors.

There is a certain irony in my mind in the humble sparrow made to don a Santa hat. It is the whole extravagant consumer culture, while supporting capitalism that is a major contributing factor to the planet’s grave problems.

David Morris, Byron Bay

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