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By Harshmeet Singh

Once a common visitor to the households in India, it was the distinct chirpiness of the house sparrows that signalled the advent of the mornings and evenings. One of the most common birds from back in the day, sparrows give a nostalgic feeling to many a people. A highly adored bird all around the world, the population of sparrows is facing a steep decline over the past couple of decades.

To bring this to the notice of a larger population, in 2010, a host of International organizations such as Nature Forever Society (Mumbai), Avon Wildlife Trust (UK), Cornell Lab of Ornithology (USA) and Eco-Sys Action Foundation (France) decided to mark 20th March as the ‘World House Sparrow Day’. In India, the event is headed by NFS, whose founder Mohammed Dilawar is an award winning environmentalist and considers ‘sparrows’ as his full time profession.

Why such a decline in sparrow’s population?

One of the biggest reasons behind their dwindling population is the modern construction techniques which leave negligible scope for the sparrows to build their nest. To counter this, a number of experts have suggested the ‘missing brick’ technique, in which a couple of bricks are intentionally removed from an empty space in the building so as to leave room for the sparrows to construct their nests.

An increasing usage of glass in the exterior construction of the buildings has further added to the woes of sparrows. Their smaller size as compared to crows and pigeons doesn’t help their cause either. Beyond a handful of minor reasons, the experts haven’t been able to pinpoint at a particular reason behind sparrows’ mysterious disappearance act. In UK, the country which has witnessed a 68% decline in the sparrows’ population since 1977, ‘The Independent’ newspaper announced a prize of £5,000 prize for anyone who comes up with a credible theory, explaining the drastic fall in the number of sparrows. 15 years down the line, the prize money still remains unclaimed.

The announcement of prize money threw up a number of interesting and weird theories that could have possibly led to the declining sparrow population. Right from cats’ attacks on sparrows and collective suicides to radiations from the nuclear accident at Chernobyl and lack of insects to feed upon, a number of ideas came forward to claim their bid on the prize money. Though none proved to be conclusive enough, lack of insects for the sparrows seemed to be one of the reasons which could have possibly led to their steep decline in numbers.


Measures to bring them back

Since no concrete reason has been established behind their fall in numbers, it is difficult to pin point at a solution which would surely erase the problem. However, assuming lack of food as one of the reasons, a number of bird lovers are now beginning to install hanging bird feeders outside their house and in the garden to feed the birds. Available at cheap prices in the market, the use of these bird feeders is highly encouraged by a number of environment related organizations. A proper maintenance of hygiene and avoidance of oily and stale food is highly recommended to anyone who is planning to install a bird feeder in his / her premises.

How well do you know sparrows?

And since it is the world house sparrow day, we might as well share some interesting facts about our favourite bird –

  • House Sparrow is the official State bird of Delhi and Bihar.
  • A grown up sparrow, on an average, weighs only 40 grams!
  • While the males have reddish backs and black bib, the females carry brown backs with stripes.
  • They can reach a flying speed on up to 50 km/hour!
  • An extremely adaptable bird, House sparrows are found in a number of countries with different climatic conditions. It is indeed found in all continents except Antarctica.
  • When their life is threatened, the sparrows can even swim underwater!
  • Sparrows either fly or hop on the ground. They are not usually observed walking on the ground. A walking sparrow, in fact, is an old age specimen.
  • They prefer living close to the human settlements. A higher density of human population would usually see a higher density of sparrow population around it too.


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