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House sparrow listed as an endangered species

Last updated: 24 June, 2010
Thiruvananthapuram,Jun 24 (PTI)

Population of house sparrows is fast declining due to dangers posed to their survival by a host of factors including mobile phone towers, prompting a UK-based forum to enlist the tiny birds in the 'Red List' of endangered avian species'.

Britain’s Royal Society of Protection of Birds has enlisted the house sparrows (Passer domesticus) in the 'Red List’ on the basis of the findings of researchers in different parts of the world including those from India.

Recent studies had shown that the population of house sparrows was on the decline in many parts of the country, including Kerala, said Dr Sainudeen Pattazhy, Associate Professor of Zoology at SN College at Kollam.

This trend was alarming especially in the urban areas due to a host of factors including "unscientific proliferation of mobile towers," Pattazhy, who conducted a study on the subject, told reporters

The study conducted during 2008-2009 in railway stations, foodgrain ware houses and human dwellings had shown that at present these small birds had virtually vanished in Kerala.

Many reasons could be cited for the situation like introduction of unleaded petrol, the combustion of which produces compounds such as methyl nitrite, a compound highly toxic for insects, the researcher said. Widespread use of garden pesticides, which kills insects that are vital diet of new-born sparrows, disappearance of open grass lands, rising temperature and avian-unfriendly modern architecture had also grievously harmed the sparrows.

However, according to Pattazhy, unscientific proliferation of mobile phone towers had in recent times emerged as a major factor in the decline of house sparrow population.
"These towers emit a frequency of 900-1800 MHz, continuous penetration of EMR (electromagnetic radiation) through the body of birds would affect their nervous system and their navigational skills. They become incapable for navigation and foraging. The birds which nests near towers are found to leave the nest within one week," he said.

"One to eight eggs can be present in a clutch. The incubation lasts for 10 to 14 days. But the eggs which are laid in nests near towers failed to hatch even after 30 days. The conservation of House sparrows is essential as it had proved to be well suited for studies of general biological problems and pest control," Pattazhy said.

Based on his findings, Pattazhy submitted a memorandum to the Union Government and IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) last year seeking steps to protect this birds from extinction, following which the government ordered a three year project to investigate into the decline of house sparrows.


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