Chirp and Tweet for the Dissapearing House Sparrow

A male House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) in Ko...

A male House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) in Kolkata, West Bengal, India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Manish Desai
The author is Director (Media), Press Information Bureau, Mumbai.

Mumbai, March 20, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB India) They were once everywhere?  Chirping and flapping their wings at the window sills, on top of cupboards and on the branches of trees. Where have all the little sparrows gone?  This is the most frequently asked question about sparrows these days.

The association between humans and the house sparrow dates back to several centuries and no other bird has been associated with humans on a daily basis like the house sparrow.  It is a bird that evokes fond memories of childhood and adds a freshness to households through its presence.  Many bird watchers and ornithologists recall with fondness how the house sparrow gave flight to their passion for observing birds.  The nests of sparrow dotted almost every house in the neighbourhood as well as public places like bus stands and railway stations, where they lived in colonies and survived on food grains and tiny worms.

Unfortunately, the house sparrow has now become a disappearing species. Like all other plants and animals which were once abundant and are now facing an uncertain future, their numbers are also declining across their natural range.  A study conducted by the Andhra University, Visakhapatnam highlighted that population of house sparrows fell by over 60 percent even in rural areas of coastal Andhra Pradesh. A survey conducted by the British Trust for Ornithology showed that house sparrow population in Britain has declined by about 58 percent since 1970.

The Reasons?

Certainly, there is no one single reason for the decline of house sparrow.  Scientists and experts say that severe changes in the urban ecosystem in recent times have had tremendous impact on the population of house sparrows whose numbers are declining constantly. Mobile tower radiation and excessive use of chemical fertilizers are aggravating the problem and have been identified as potent sparrow killers. In addition, sparrows have also become targets of poachers, who have been marketing them as aphrodisiac and a permanent cure for sexual ailments.

There have been many theories put forward for the almost worldwide decline of the House Sparrow. It is said that sparrow chicks, who require insect food for their survival in their early days, have not been getting adequate supply from their parents. This has triggered large scale deaths of chicks leading to gradual decline of their population.

Urban landscape too, has been dramatically altered over the years. Old houses with courtyards in front and backyards, have made way for concrete multi-stories, with little greenery. No longer are sparrows able to find the tiny nooks, crannies and holes where they used to build their nests. Habitat degradation and loss have taken their toll in not only on populations but in the variety of species as well.

World Sparrow Day

March 20 is being observed as the World House Sparrow Day, across the globe to raise public awareness about the decline of the house sparrow and throw light on the problems faced by the species in its daily fight for survival. National and international organizations, voluntary organizations, clubs and societies, universities, schools and individuals across the world celebrate the event by organizing awareness programs.

The idea of celebrating the World Sparrow Day came up during an informal discussion over tea at the Nature Forever Society's office in Nashik, Maharashtra.  “The idea was to earmark a day for the House Sparrow to convey the message of conservation of the House Sparrow and other common birds and also mark a day of celebration to appreciate the beauty of the common biodiversity which we take so much for granted.” says Mohammed Dilavar of the Nature Forever Society.

The theme for the World Sparrow Day 2012 is ‘Chirp for the Sparrow; Tweet for the Sparrow’.  The Nature Forever Society has called upon all the citizens to observe the World Sparrow Day – by gathering more information about sparrows, writing blogs, tweeting about the World Sparrow Day messages, making films, organizing talks in schools and colleges etc.

Typically, sparrows were never an issue of concern for us with their diminutive presence in our households. Perhaps, it is this diminutive presence because of which even their gradual disappearance has gone unnoticed.  Mohammed Dilavar is rightly called the ‘sparrow man of India’, as he has been successful in drawing the attention of the world  about the declining number of house sparrows.

The reason being that house sparrows are important bio-indicators and their decline is a grim reminder of degradation of the urban environment and the danger from it to the humans in the long run. (PIB Feature.)


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