Bring back the chirpy sparrow

Lost Habitat

Gone are the days when house sparrows were the most common birds that could be seen around, nesting in every nook and cranny and making your home their home.

 The chirpy sounds of these small birds are rarely heard today making their absence  quite noticeable. And due to their sharply decreasing numbers, a tiny bird as common as the sparrow was even included by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in its Red Data List of threatened species in 2002 alongside the glamorous snow leopard, tiger and red panda. The Delhi Government even dedicated itself to the protection and conservation of the humble sparrow, elevating it to the official status of State Bird of Delhi in 2012. 

“There is no space to make nests for these sparrows and there is no greenery around homes nowadays. Sparrows are quite sensitive in nature than other birds and hence they cannot cope up with the increasing pollution in the City. On the other hand we can find a lot of pigeons, which is an aggressive species and can survive in harsh conditions,” says, Ravi Agarwal, director at Toxics Link.

The destruction of wetland areas, loss of vegetation coupled with reduction in potential breeding sites, has accelerated the rate of decline in the sparrow population in India. But the major reason for this decline in their number is the scarcity of insects and grains which serve as protein supplements for the sparrows. 

Speaking to Metrolife, Dr Faiyaz Khudsar, a wildlife biologist, said, “Sparrows are not lost, they have lost their breeding spaces...their habitat. The current construction and architectural designs do not let them come close to our homes. Also, they are dependent on grains, and other insects like caterpillars, which are hardly found as there are no kitchen gardens around us anymore.”

“The other major issue is the presence of pigeons in the City. People also feed them as they believe in the saying kabootar ko khana khilaoge to swarg jaoge. And due to the availability of food, which gives these pigeons the sense of food security, has resulted in over-explosion of their population. The pigeons collect their food from wild areas, that carry unwanted bacterias.

 So, the humble and small sparrows are being pushed away by the pigeons. We have also found that the two major factors – life and food security are the main reasons for the increasing number of pigeons and monkeys in our City. Sparrows love to live in open spaces with clear visibility, which is not found in our densely populated City,” added Dr Khudsar.

Unlike other birds who need a proper nest to live, pigeons can survive on the spaces available on air conditioner, small passages, etc. As a result of which the sparrow population has drastically reduced in urban areas in the City. 

Govind Singh, assistant professor of Environmental Studies and Management, Cluster Innovation Centre, University of Delhi and director (honorary) of Delhi Greens, an NGO, said, “Unlike reports, sparrows have not vanished but can be found in specific pockets. There are no wetlands and no water for them to live in our City. Even the attitude of people has changed. We don’t see people keeping water for sparrows now.”

Ishtiyak Ahmed, education officer, conservation education centre, Bombay Natural History Society, Delhi, said, “There were misconceptions that the sparrows are vanishing due to the mobile towers, but as part our experimentation we put nest boxes on these towers and found that sparrows are making them their home. So, it is their habitat which has been taken away from them. People should provide a small home, made of anything, cartons, etc. One does not have to worry about their food, they come with their partners and find their own food. They just need a space to live.”

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