These diminutive, incessantly chirping, brown birds must be familiar by everyone’s vision. These are none other than the most ubiquitous wild birds in the world – the house sparrows. They have been accompanying humankind since Stone Age, believed to be more than 10,000 years. Being opportunistic in nature, sparrows settled their habitats amidst human settlement. They started putting their nest in our surroundings – house terrace, crevices, holes, boxes, garden, trees, and agricultural fields. Gradually, they became a pervasive element of common sight. They also proved their comradeship by being one of the most prolific forms of natural pest. It is recorded in history that post mid-nineties, Australia and America cherished the presence of these pleonastic birds as they acted as the best natural pest controller and reduced the reliance of farmers on the chemical alternatives. And thus, sparrows became a substantial part of the ecosystem like any other creature.
Their sound, their habitation, their presence, we took so granted that we didn’t even realize that they are now red-listed among the endangered species. Their population all over the world has been declining at an alarming rate since past decade – a drop by 60-70%. This decline not only attracts attention to the resulting disproportionate ecosystem, but also towards its association with the future of mankind. Their decline could be precursor to an imminent danger. Mostly because these house sparrows are inhabited in social and urban surroundings. They feed on grains, weeds, seeds, oats, wheat, left overs, insects, and mostly all the foods that are consumed by us also. The imbalance in sparrows’ statistics posits a question before us that what major changes we are inducing in our surroundings, food sources, and climate that are leading to diminish sparrows and which could also fall back to us eventually.
What could be the reasons behind the degradation?
A number of researchers and experts have been investing their efforts to untangle the perplexed decline in population. Some of the prominent causes suggested by them are:
Lack of food sources
The modernized lack-of-green infrastructure leaves cramped breeding space for invertebrate prey such as insects. Since invertebrate prey is one of the vital food source for the sparrows, abatement of these food sources ultimately directly proportionate to the sparrows’ decline.
The environmental pollution is one of the crucial reasons for increasing mortality rate of chicks and adult sparrows.
Lack of nest sites
Sparrows prefer to nest in old crevices and eaves. The usage of concrete, glasses and steels in contemporary buildings is not conducive to sparrows’ habitations.
It could be a reason why the sparrows are not able to hear the hunger calls of their offspring.
Excessive usage of insecticide
The quality of food is worsening day by day having high doses of pesticides and herbicides. This is already projecting poisonous impact on sparrows.
What could we do to protect our sparrows?
Provide them food
The best step we could take to lend our supporting hands to sparrows is to avail food and nesting for them. Providing food to the places where sparrows are mostly expected could enhance the likelihood of their survival. Some of the common food sources could be the seed-bearing plants, mealworms with some mixed seeds, or any seed mix containing large grains.
The UK based RSBP organization has meticulously dictated the instructions about what to feed and when to feed.
Provide them shelters
It is a good idea to place some nest boxes near the attics and eaves of your properties. It is suggested that the nest boxes should be put bit above the ground and preferably in north to east sides to shield them from hot sun and cold winds. Since sparrows are considered bullies, hence it is also recommended that their nest boxes should be little far from other birds’ nest, if you have other birds.
Decrease the use of pesticides
Make use of birds like sparrows as they are proven best natural pest controls. Controlling the usage of pesticide would also allow the growth of invertebrates which would increase food sources for sparrows.
And last but not the least, keep your feeding stations clean to avoid disease.
Commendable initiatives taken to protect our sparrows
Save Our Sparrows & World Sparrow Day
Different nations agreed to take necessary steps realizing the importance of saving the sparrows and retaining the equilibrium of our ecosystem. In that endeavor, Nasik based environmentalist Mohammed Dilawar, the founder of Nature Forever Society, started the campaign Save Our Sparrows (SOS) which was honored by the Guinness World Records for distributing 52,000 bird-feeders around the world, the highest such distribution made so far. The campaign was materialized across the world in association with Mumbai’s Burhani Foundation to mark the World Sparrow Day on 20th March, which is now celebrated every year all over the world.
House Sparrows – State Bird in Delhi
In 2012, Delhi state authorities declared house sparrows as the State Bird in order to raise an alarm about its declining population and gather attention from people to take preventive steps to save this friendly bird.
Sparrow House Nest Box Campaign
An emerging NGO “Vaanprrasth” launched an initiative to spread the awareness among people about the declining population of sparrows. The campaign was termed as Sparrow House Nest Box. Under this campaign, a total of 850 nest boxes have been distributed so far. The dedicated and consistent effort of the Vaanprrasth team could attract more volunteers offering their support.
The NGO also encouraged people to put a bowl of water in terrace or on window to attract more sparrows.
When contacted, the general secretary of Vaanprrasth and the mastermind of this campaign, Rakesh K Midhha, revealed about his motivation to launch such campaign:
“Following the custom of my mother of sprinkling Bajra daily on my terrace, my son asked me why I did it? I replied simply that this is for the sparrows, to which my son replied that there were hardly any sparrows to be seen now-a-days.
This led me to a deep thought that few years back we were able to see easily a group of sparrow chirping wherever we went, but now we rarely find them and in forthcoming years if same trend of deforestation continues one would only be able to find them on Google…..
Our organization VAANPRRASTH took an initiative to spread awareness among people about the declining population of sparrows. We started the ‘sparrow house nest box’ campaign under which we distributed 850 nest boxes free of cost. Though people didn’t take it seriously initially but due to God’s grace and our constant efforts we got many volunteers to support our cause.
We appealed to people to keep a bowl of water on the terrace and windows to save sparrow from dying due to thirst. We also insisted them to sprinkle Bajra in open verandah to attract sparrows.
After two and a half years of hard work, it fills me with immense joy when I see bowl of water and nest boxes in houses. It gives me great pleasure when people ask me for more such nest boxes for their friends, family and neighbors. It is amazing experience because this shows that awareness has increased. People understand their responsibility and are coming forward.
I can proudly say that I have contributed a bit in saving this tiny beautiful creature. Hoping the chirpy voice of house sparrow will be again heard in every verandah and at perches.”
[For more information about sparrows’ preservation, you can reach Rakesh K Midhha at email@example.com]
Now its our turn to contribute towards the protection of sparrows. A small act of kindness will also aid in their sustentation. Days are not far when sparrows would just be a mention in fables and their chirping sound would be a captivation of audio clips.
Save sparrows; Save environment; Save earth !!
Shweta Kumari Sharma
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