Monday, 9 July 2018

The East Budleigh 'Italian Sparrow' Preliminary Results

I'm sure you don't need me to remind you about the East Budleigh Italian Sparrow, and the fact I was fortunate enough to handle this bird and under license remove a couple of body feathers for DNA analysis.  All of this possible only due to the local home owners, and the efforts of local birder Chris Townend.  If you do need a reminder you can read my original blog post HERE

East Budleigh Italian Sparrow trapped and ringed on 9/4/18


The feathers went to Prof Martin Collinson at Aberdeen University. He and his team weren't really sure exactly what they would be able to tell about this bird, given the extremely complex DNA make up of Italian Sparrow, a species that doesn't have it's own DNA just a mix of House and Spanish Sparrow genes. Then there's the complication of similar looking Sparrows that can be found in other parts of the Mediterranean region.

Last week Martin wrote to me with the preliminarily results, although was keen to stress they have got a lot more work to do yet.  But in short - it's looking like it isn't a true Italian Sparrow.  All tests so far have returned results inconsistent with italiae and they are sure it has not originated from Italy. They do still need to rule out the possibility of it being an Italian Sparrow from one of the Mediterranean Islands though.

Once Martin and his team have worked on this further by studying more genes, hopefully they will be writing an article in BTO's Ringing & Migration.

Sorry folks, this may not be the news you want to hear, but don't forget what a stunning looking bird he was/is. A real corker.  I am so privileged to have been a small part of this fascinating tale, but all the real work is being done Martin and his team so they deserve all the praise. So much time and effort on three little feathers.


2 comments:

  1. I think it was two years ago now that Denis Summers-Smith, who has forgotten more about sparrows than most of the rest of us will ever know, speculated at the BTO Annual Conference that there might well be Spanish Sparrow x House Sparrow hybrids floating around this country given the number of recent Spanish Sparrow records. It will be nice if the further work by Martin Collinson and team vindicates that speculation. Denis is now 97 – let’s hope he lives to learn the result.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lovely looking bird,look forward to the DNA results,best of luck.
    John and Sue.

    ReplyDelete