On Sparrow Day, let’s spare some time to protect the chirpy birds
The chirping sound of sparrows always arouses nostalgia in our minds. The tiny birds attract everyone with their cuteness and playful nature. They were once a common sight in marketplaces and they used to make the area more active and energetic with their very presence. We can see comparatively less number of sparrows in our surroundings now. They are friends with humans to an extent and they nest and breed in human occupied areas without any fear. However, the dependence on humans can be a threat to their existence.
In order to conserve sparrows and make people aware of its importance, World Sparrow Day is observed on March 20 every year. Many of the people who may even have nostalgic memories of house sparrows seem to have ignored the importance of conserving them. There are quite a number of bird lovers and birdwatchers around us who take note of the changing environment.
Manoj Karingamadathil, a birdwatcher and a member of Citizen Science Community in Kerala, said that though Keralites associate sparrows with nostalgia, the birds are present all over the globe. The State of India Birds website which provides authentic information about birds in the country states that, the number of sparrows in India seem to be stable in recent years compared to the past.
“I have seen the bird in European countries and North America while travelling. It is not a local bird as many of us think. According to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List, the sparrow is a least concern species. It can be spotted everywhere, though in small numbers,” he said.
House sparrows are the common species we can see around us. Its scientific name is Passer domesticus. The bird can be easily identified with its brown and grey plumage. The male and female birds are different in colour. The chirpy voice of sparrow sounds cute and helps recognise it.
Sparrows mainly feed on grains, insects, and sometimes leftover food found from human habitation. They are highly dependent on humans for food. Naturally, the birds are abundant in market places especially where grains are sold. The rice and lentils leaked from the sacks were the major source of food for the birds. So, they prefer to nest and breed in shop premises.
The method of packing food items has changed now. The open sacks were replaced with plastic covers and containers which are spill-proof. With this, wastage of grains reduced which in turn affected the source of food of sparrows. Birdwatchers observe that sparrows are rarely found in the wild due to their dependence on humans.
In the past, shops with old style architecture with thatched roof and wooden attic were more common. Sparrows and other birds could easily find space in such buildings for nesting. When shops transformed into concrete buildings with shutters, the birds lost comfortable spaces. Even then they try making nests in the available places like lamp shades and unused cupboards. As food and shelter being the primary requirements of any creature, these situations pose a challenge to them.
Though sparrows belong to the category of birds which requires least concern about extinction, the birdwatchers actively take note of their presence for research purposes in future. Manoj said that he has been collecting data of sparrows wherever he travels and tries to take pictures, record audio and note other details. These information are uploaded on a platform named eBird.org so that the researchers and students who require data for studies can access them freely.
‘Most of the people who provide data to the website are common people who take initiative to be part of nature conservation activities. The public also can take part in the survey of sparrows. I engage in such tasks as a citizen scientist,’ Manoj added.
Birdwatchers normally take count of birds applying scientific counting methods. However, when it comes to sparrows, these methods are not necessary as they are found in small clusters and are present in human habitation.
Despite the stable counts and least concern status, every species should be under scanner at regular intervals to ensure that they remain safe. In the case of sparrows, their number declined compared to the past but the efforts of nature conservationists and bird lovers restored it to a safe level. The local people including porters, taxi drivers and labourers have a great role in providing water and food for sparrows and arranging cardboard boxes for nesting. Such attempts were really fruitful and sparrows were attracted to these places, Manoj shared his observations.
There were popular initiatives like keeping a bowl of water and seeds for birds. Students, nature lovers, social workers and others took up this as a major task during the summer. Frequent reports of these kinds of activities can be spotted in the media. Sharing some water and food and arranging safe spaces for nesting can be regularly practiced to conserve sparrows.
Placing food at regular time will gradually attract more birds. This can be an ideal hobby for those who enjoy the company of birds too. Observing the birds in our surroundings is a pleasurable activity and documentation of the same is a scientific activity. Let's befriend some sparrows this summer and see how we can help birds with a little effort.