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Did you spot a sparrow?

On World Sparrow Day 2023, let’s find the reasons behind their disappearance and look for solutions to rehabilitate the little chirpers



Has sparrow become a thing of the past? Those born before the 2000’s would remember sparrows as a childhood memory.  One often spotted those little grey-brown birds, nestling in the gaps of the walls or openings near the cable-boxes. Their morning chirps would be the sweetest wake up alarm, and those short-heighted sprints in air were an absolute delight to watch.

As time passed, we assumed that the sparrows were existing peacefully in their zone while we were growing in a rapidly changing world, thanks to all the technological advancements. It was a big surprise to find oneself all grown up so fast, but an even bigger one was when we looked around to realise: The sparrows had all disappeared! It was only when the former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit declared the sparrow as the official state bird, the awareness spread about these little creatures at risk.  

So this World Sparrow Day, let’s find the reasons behind their disappearance and also learn what we, as citizens, can do about the same.

First, let’s learn about sparrows

House Sparrow is scientifically called the ‘Passer Domesticus Indicus’ (for all science students interested in the nomenclature). The females are usually grey in colour while the males have brown, white or black markings. It is believed that the ancient Romans introduced the bird to Europe from North Africa and Eurasia. Human exploration and migration then took the sparrow to many other parts of the globe.

Sparrows are very social as a species. Usually found in groups of 8-10, they symbolise the spirit of evolution. Just like humans, sparrows are hard-core survivors. They are a catalyst towards green urban spaces and flag bearers of urban biodiversity. They can nest in any crevice, gaps or holes they spot in walls. From being spotted in the ice-cold temperature of the Himalayas to even breeding near a coal mine, sparrows truly symbolise the strength of the spirit.

Why, when and how did they disappear?

If the bird is skilled in adapting, how did it become endangered? The reasons, unfortunately, aren’t natural but man-made.

Research suggests that sparrows love to breed close to human civilisations. However, modern day architectural designs make it hard for them to spot nesting grounds. Add to this the harmful radiation from mobile towers and alarming air quality index (AQI) levels.

Over the years, the green cover of the cities has changed colour to grey. We find it a mark of status to live in concrete jungles where the gardens in front of our homes are fast being converted into parking spots in the name of development. Modern infrastructure has left no nesting avenues for the House Sparrow. 

Sparrows feed their younger ones on insects. But the rampant use of garden herbicides and pesticides have reduced insect population, thereby eliminating a prime source of sustenance. 

Mrs Sangeeta Nistandra, Principal, Apeejay School, Mahavir Marg, Jalandhar, has a decade-long experience in environment restoration. She has served formerly in the capacity of district coordinator for the Environment Society of India and highlights that dwindling sparrow population is an indicator of ecological disparity. She mentions, “Every living organism is a part of a food chain and these interconnected food chains constitute a food web.  Many food webs in turn form the ecosystem of nature. So, if the population of any one organism dwindles, the balance is thrown off grid thereby leading to ecological imbalance.”

However, Mrs Nistandra is optimistic as she mentions that World Sparrow Day, celebrated in 2010 for the first time, is certainly creating awareness about the issue and becoming the harbinger of a positive change. 

What can we do now?

When the cause is known, half the problem is solved.

The first step towards increasing the sparrow population is spreading awareness about the same. This is exactly what Nashik-based environmentalist Mohammed Dilawar did. He founded the India-based Nature Forever Society (NFS), which alongside the France-based Eco-Sys Action Foundation, helped popularise March 20 as World Sparrow Day.

Dilawar and his team of volunteers launched a sparrow housing movement across the nation. They set up nest boxes, bird feeders and water bowls in urban spaces to increase sparrow breeding. 

Akin to these steps, one at school or college can make a wildlife society and organise workshops spreading awareness about such topics. Bird lovers shall find it easy to make sparrow-feeders out of discarded plastic bottles, coconut shells or bamboo baskets. Building makeshift nests around homes can also be a good start to rehabilitate the poor sparrow. However, one has to ensure that the nest boxes are placed at a height, away from predators like cats. 

So, what are you waiting for? Do your bit for the old sparrow’s sake and help make your surrounding a happy eco-urban space. 

Arijit Roy is a young correspondent at Apeejay Newsroom. He has done his masters in English literature from Delhi University and has a book of poems published by Writers Workshop India. He can be reached at [email protected]