January 09, 2008

Secretariat of the Pacific Community

Sparrows are not native to Pohnpei and can spread diseases in the same way that feral pigeons and rats do.

In September 2007, Mr. Roseo Marquez of the Conservation Society of Pohnpei (CSP) reported seeing sparrows at the produce and fish market in Kolonia Town. In October, Mr. John Wichep of FSM R&D reported seeing three sparrows at Senny's shopping center in downtown Kolonia.

In November more than 20 sparrows were sighted at the causeway in Dekehtik feeding on leftover picnic food. Sparrows may feed on garbage, especially if there is no lid or if food is spilled around garbage containers or picnic areas.

The sparrows are small, plump brown-grey birds with short tails and powerful beaks. The birds now present and established in Kolonia are probably the Eurasian Tree Sparrow which is also present in Palau and Yap. The bird is native to Europe and Asia but has spread all over the world. There are not many countries in the world where sparrows are not present.

The Eurasian Tree Sparrow resembles the House Sparrow, but the black throat patch on the Eurasian Tree Sparrow is smaller. The new intruder is about 5.5 inches long with a wingspan of 8.5 inches. As to nesting behavior, both parents build an untidy cup or a domed nest of plant materials and twigs. The nest is usually placed in a cavity or hole in a cliff, wall or pipe. Both the male and the female incubate 4 to 6 eggs. Eggs hatch in 10 to 12 days and both parents feed the young for about 2 weeks before the young leave the nest. The first question people may ask is, "How did these creatures get here?"

No one knows but it is assumed that they came on a ship as an adult or as eggs on a shipping container. Once before bird eggs, which looked like pigeon eggs were found on top of a shipping container coming from South Korea to Pohnpei.

The Pohnpei Invasive Species Taskforce is currently making plans to eradicate sparrows and feral pigeons in Pohnpei.

There are several ways to control or eradicate these unwanted birds. One very effective way is to look for breeding sites and destroy the nests and eggs. Birds can be caught at night with a spot light. Another way to eradicate the birds is to shoot them with an air gun.

The public could help by not allowing the birds to breed (nest) around their houses. The public should report nesting sights to one of the following contacts:

The Conservation Society of Pohnpei (CSP) 320- 5409, or The Secretariat of the Pacific Community S(PC) 320 7523.