• Wheatear

    Wheatear © D Jones

  • Blackcap
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull

    Lesser Black-backed Gull © R Campey

  • Skylark

    Skylark © R Campey

  • Fulmar
  • Swallows
  • Pied Wagtail

    Pied Wagtail © R Campey

  • Puffin

The Lundy House Sparrow Project is a unique, long-term research project run by Imperial College London and Sheffield University. But why study sparrows on an island if they are abundant on the mainland? Lundy provides an excellent opportunity to catch, colour-ring and observe every single sparrow on the island throughout the year.

Systematic monitoring of breeding birds takes place during the summer, and in the winter a census is conducted – both have taken place every year since 2000 when this project was set up. DNA samples are taken from every bird caught, and they are each marked with a unique colour-ring combination which aids monitoring and other observations. House Sparrows are poor long-distance flyers so they are unlikely to leave the island and, given the distance from the mainland, very few sparrows reach Lundy. Those that do, either naturally or via the supply ship MS Oldenburg, can be detected, when caught, via their 'non-local' DNA sequences. This is how we know that there have so far been at least four natural immigrants which have stayed to breed on Lundy.

This intensive monitoring also enables us to know exact hatching and death dates for every sparrow that’s ever lived on Lundy, as well as their genetic ancestry and the identity of the individuals with which they socialise. We also know precisely how many offspring every bird produces throughout their lifetime, and how long they live. This, together with knowledge of their DNA sequence, ageing, social behaviour, mating systems and vocalisations, allows us to study evolution in action in this natural laboratory.

If you would like to know more about our sparrow research, you can read about it here.