The vanishing beauties

Last Updated 24 July 2022, 17:23 IST

Last week, while watering plants in our terrace garden in the morning, I was pleasantly surprised to behold a couple of sparrows chirping on our compound. Elated, I stood there gazing so curiously at them and savouring their chirpy rhapsody. How beautiful it is to listen to the chirping melodies of these tiny birds in mornings. But alas, nowadays we hardly see them in our urban concrete jungles. We wonder with despair whether sparrows have vanished completely, become extinct and have we lost the chirpibng melodies of these tiny birds.

Sparrows are closer to humans. So it’s no wonder that Salim Ali, the eminent ornithologist hailed as ‘The Bird Man of India’ called sparrows man’s hanger-on and out of his immense love for sparrows titled his biography The Fall of a Sparrow.

Unlike now, sparrows were omnipresent when I was a young lad: on tree-branches, compound walls and telegraph-wires. Every morning, we would be woken up by the chorus of their incessant chirping. We could see these puny, brown birds perched on tree-branches and pouring out a ceaseless stream of chirpy melodies or fluttering their wings to fly from one tree to another.

At noon, with their unique springy gait, they would move about picking up grains in our backyard. As the family siesta progressed after lunch, they would venture into our house and launch into an amusing play in our large living room, flying all over and bursting out into chirps after landing comfortably on pillars and window-sills.

What intrigued my boyish mind the most was the way they dutifully picked sticks from besoms (brooms used for cleaning the floors). Sparrows, even while fluttering inside our house, never disturb or knock down anything. But besoms seemed to tug at their birdie hearts. They would land at the besoms lying at the corner of our kitchen and keep pecking persistently at it, struggling to separate thin sticks from it. When succeeded in breaking out a stick, they would pick it up in their beaks and fly away quietly. I wondered “What is the use of these sticks for these sparrows? What would they do with all these sticks?”

Only a few days later, one morning, to my immense joy, I found on the branch of a neem-tree in our back-yard, a nest made of fibre, dry grass and sticks of besom. What a pleasant and exciting discovery it was for me!

Unfortunately, they are now threatened and endangered by unbridled urbanisation, air and noise pollution, glass and concrete structures of human-dwellings, lack of nesting-space and food. We can hardly spot them in the urban landscape.

To have a legion of sparrows flapping their tiny wings and chirping incessantly on our compound-walls and tree-branches in mornings is indeed a heavenly experience.

(Published 24 July 2022, 17:07 IST)

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