Bring back the sparrows

Bring back the sparrows

Bring back the sparrows

Once chirping happily in our backyards, sparrows cannot be spotted easily nowadays. Seen in abundance till 20 years ago, house sparrow, a common species is not so common any longer in cities like Delhi.

While there is no official data on the number of sparrows left in India, it is certain the population of the small birds has certainly declined not just here but world over.

Loss of micro habitats, decreasing spots to lay eggs, change of human lifestyle, architectural changes, changed agricultural patterns, proliferation of urban predators, microwave towers and excessive use to pesticides are some of the major reasons to blame for disappearance of sparrows which evolved with humans and are always found in and around human habitation.

It took people awhile to notice that there are hardly any sparrows now. The decline has been more in coastal areas. Few campaigns by individuals and organisations have been organised to raise awareness on the issue and increasing the population of sparrows has brought partial results.

One such campaign was organised by a Nashik-based environmentalist Mo­h­a­m­med Dilawar in collaboration with Burhani Foundation of distributing 52,000 bird feeders world wide to individuals, NGOs, and other organisations. The effort was to help towards increasing sparrow population.

But increasing urbanisation and changed architectural settings in cities have refrained sparrows from thriving like two decades ago since these are birds that lay eggs in human habitats.

A film Beyond the Mirage by Nutan Manmohan on the disappearance of a once common species was scre­e­n­ed at IIC followed by a disc­u­ssion to talk about the issue that hasn’t got its due.

The film talks about how sparrows’ importance has been undermined without realising that big exotic birds can survive only when there are enough small birds like sparrows.
According to the film, 25 per cent of birds in India have gone extinct since 2008 because of lack of nesting places and loss of micro eco-systems and what can be done to bring them back.

“For the past five years, almost every bird watcher and environmentalist is talking about dwindling sparrows. This is a much larger environment issue. One of the most harmful features has been the increase in the population of dogs and scavengers like crows because of the feed that they get from people in urban areas. These animals finish the bio-sphere,” says Nutan. While dogs scare the birds away, crows, being very aggressive actually end up eating the sparrows’ eggs.

Dr Surya Prakash who specialises in Zoology at School of Life Sciences in Jawaharlal Nehru University and a passionate bird watcher, says the data suggests that human beings themselves are responsible for dwindling sparrows.

“We have homes and buildings these days in which there are no ventilator, no windows which gives leaves the sparrow no space to build their nests. The Electronic magnet signals coming from cellphone towers is also keeping sparrows away from cities. The concept of kitchen garden is also gone,” informs Prof Prakash.

The professor has collected data which shows that sparrows have gone down by 80 per cent in Andhra Pradesh and other coastal places, by 20 per cent in Kerala and Gujarat, while there is no information about the numbers on the same in Delhi and Bangalore.

Some steps by people - such as placing wooden or earthen homes, feeding them, putting water pots for them, planting trees and discouraging use of pesticides can be of great help in increasing sparrows. Don’t you want to hear the chirping again?

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