House sparrows

The house sparrow (Passer domesticus) is one of the most widely distributed and iconic urban bird in Europe. However, their population have been declining all over the continent and we have lost 50% of our sparrow population since 1980.

Although the causes behind this decline are still unclear, it has been recently showed that infectious diseases may have a role in these dynamics. Pathogens, by affecting the fitness and the reproductive success of birds, can have an important role in their population dynamics.

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In Catalonia, the house sparrow has shown a constant population decline since 2002 with a loss of 2.5 million individuals, 18% of its breeding population. In urban areas such as Barcelona, this decline is yet more pronounced.

These dramatic declines highlight the urgent need to assess the causes of such losses and understand how we can protect this iconic species

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Our project aims at investigating the effect of infectious diseases (like avian malaria and poxvirus) on the dynamics of sparrow populations in the city of Barcelona and surroundings. Aside from assessing the level of infection in the sparrow population, we will also look into the role of diseases in the winter survival of individuals and in the local population dynamics.