Spare a thought for the sparrow

Spare a thought for the sparrow

Common house sparrow, one of the winged companions of human beings, has disappeared from most of the commonly-sighted places, without a clue. In the last two decades, sparrows have declined remarkably both in urban and rural habitats, a phenomenon, attributed to environmental degradation. A team of seven amateur naturalists and 250 student volunteers is striving to create livable spaces for these birds in Dharwad.

Together we canKnown as Green Army, the group organises birdwatching activities for youngsters during weekends in the urban and semi-urban areas. A map of bird
habitat is also formed based on their sparrow sightings. The team, led by scientist Prakash Goudar, is encouraging people to put bird boxes, bird feeders, water bowls and birdbaths outside homes. The members lead by action and grow native plants and hedges, facilitating the return of the common birds.

The team’s survey has observed several reasons for sparrow’s apparent disappearance in the region. Multistoried concrete buildings replacing traditional ones have led to a great decrease in the numbers. Earlier, the eaves of the tiled roofs and framed photos hung on the walls in old houses acted as comfortable perches to build nests. But now all sparrows find are artificial dwellings.

Along with architectural changes, radiation by cellphone networks and byproducts of unleaded petrol are also responsible for their decline. Their common places of feeding like grocery shops and kitchen gardens have lost relevance today.

Gangadhar Kallur, honorary wildlife warden of Dharwad, says that the extensive use of pesticides in the fields and plantations are lethal for the survival of these pretty birds, especially during sowing, sprouting and harvesting.

Green Army has initiated a common bird monitoring programme to conserve Dharwad’s common birds. Discussion session and surveys are conducted to get an idea of the current status of sparrows. Student volunteers distribute handbills and persuade public to scatter grains for sparrows and ensure regular watering of feeders.

Retired teacher and Green Army mentor R G Timmapur has fostered new ways to facilitate the return of these winged beauties. An avid bird watcher himself, his house has eight live nests and he has also distributed about 1,000 sparrow nests in the last two years. He
encourages the youth to hang it in their house premises and trains students to make a live nest.

The Green Army members have approached about 1,000 houses in the city, encouraging them to leave space for the little lives of nature. Though initially, bird nests were bought from Mysuru Amateur Naturalist Organisation (MAN), the team is designing the nests on its own now.

Interestingly, the nests made using  cardboard and straws are turning out to be effective in concrete homes, with 50 nests being occupied by sparrows.

Residents of Dharwad are actively participating in ‘Citizen Sparrow’, a nationwide citizen science project encouraging public to post updates on house sparrows. World Sparrow Day, observed on March 20, is an initiative of Nature Forever Society based in Delhi, to create awareness about the significance of sparrow and other common birds and
encourage biodiversity conservation through community participation.

The aim is also to attract the attention of government agencies and the scientific community to take notice of the need for the conservation of the common bird species and urban biodiversity.

It’s high time we joined our hands to conserve our beloved sparrow.

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