20th March will be celebrated as World Sparrow day to emphasize the need to protect these little birds, as well as their habitats. A sparrow is to the city what a tiger is to the forest. The shocking and the inconvenienced truth is that the population of sparrow is declining at a faster pace in many countries of the world. Sparrow is a very important member of various urban and natural food chains and food webs. They are the sweetest birds that live around us and as a child every one of us should have enjoyed their sightings all around us. The house sparrow is one of the best friends of human beings. 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. Sparrows are amongst the bird species that we have been seeing since childhood. But, recent surveys have shown that their numbers are declining.
The friendly chirp on the window sill will soon be a sight for sore eyes as the innocuous sparrow is being wiped out from the urban jungle. The spike in the felling of trees in Mumbai is a major reason why sparrows and other birds are facing a loss of habitat. The omnipresent glass buildings of Mumbai—the corporate dens—have replaced many older structures that were built with a façade that had nooks and crannies, even bricked roofs, which allow sparrows to nest. Heavy use of chemical fertilizers leads to agricultural produce being placed by them, hence ruining the food of sparrows. The effects range from damage to the immune and nervous system of sparrows to interference with their navigating sensors.
Changing lifestyles have robbed sparrows of their nesting grounds. The fast paced lifestyles of urban and semi-urban areas have also reflected in people’s attitude towards birds and biodiversity. Sparrows are resilient, they migrate to safer zones, feed at public granaries, market places, ports and rail stations, nest at nearby sites and adapt to stabilize their population, but gradually, all such places are becoming unsuitable for them. It’s slow but noticeable disappearance has been labelled as one of the biggest mysteries of recent times.
Future generations might get to see them only in pictures. House Sparrow was quite popular and common among the past and present generations who got to see them all around their house and fields. Listing the number of reasons for the decline in the population, survival of any species was ultimately linked to factors such as food, nesting and breeding opportunities and escaping from the predators. Lack of these led to decline in Sparrow population. The increasing number of cell phone towers in urban ambience and the radiation from these towers are also leading to high mortality rate of sparrows.
Decline of sparrows includes shortage of nesting sites, food, effects of pesticides and microwave pollution caused by mobile towers. These sparrows being one of the bio-indicators are a grim reminder of polluted environment in which not only the house sparrows, but also the other common birds get depleted. We have to remember that this little magical bird that is gradually disappearing from our skies and neighbourhoods needs immediate help to survive.
Sparrow huts became a common add-on at handicraft exhibitions for environmentally friendly people. By bringing it back, we are safeguarding our children’s future for a green and healthy environment. It is the time to take fruitful efforts to conserve the tiny social, human associated bird. It is our responsibility to save this small, lovable, beautiful and harmless bird for environment and for ourselves.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)