We gratefully acknowledge the help of Reinhold Schoon, an archaeozoologist in Göttingen, with locating sites that contain evidence of sparrow remains. We also thank Katharina Engelken for guiding us to archival data on sparrow kills in Westphalia.
NEITHER BIBLICAL PLAGUE NOR PRISTINE MYTH: A LESSON FROM CENTRAL EUROPEAN SPARROWS*
Version of Record online: 30 MAR 2010
© 2010 by the American Geographical Society of New York
Volume 100, Issue 2, pages 176–186, April 2010
How to Cite
HERRMANN, B. and WOODS, W. I. (2010), NEITHER BIBLICAL PLAGUE NOR PRISTINE MYTH: A LESSON FROM CENTRAL EUROPEAN SPARROWS. Geographical Review, 100: 176–186. doi: 10.1111/j.1931-0846.2010.00020.x
- Issue online: 30 MAR 2010
- Version of Record online: 30 MAR 2010
- European house sparrow;
- human impact on species;
- passenger pigeon;
- pest control;
- eighteenth century
The historical superabundance of passenger pigeons in North America and of house sparrows in Central Europe is anthropogenic; that is, the result of human actions, in these cases with unintended consequences. In this article we concentrate on the superabundance of sparrows in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and outline the reasons for it. Both the passenger pigeon and the sparrow examples serve as ideal types for misplaced understanding of historical numbers of individuals as indicators of assumed pristine natural situations. Both examples reflect severe human impacts on the metapopulations of the bird species. Historical data on abundance can be misleading when they are used as guides in current conservation efforts. Selections of “right” numbers are arbitrary, because no points of reference exist in natural systems.