Keeping sparrows close
Sparrows have been thriving around human settlements for over 10,000 years but times are a-changing. Over the past years, their numbers have noticeably declined in our towns and cities. How these exemplars of common birds are faring in rural areas has got bird watchers busily comparing their notes of sightings. It is widely accepted that if urban pollution and modern architecture has pushed the once ubiquitous sparrows firmly on the backfoot, chemical farming in the countryside has been a double whammy. Said to have been a carnivorous bird that origited in North Africa in the distant past, about 140 sparrow species flourished well in different continents in close proximity with homo sapiens. From insects, grain, fruits and berries to leftovers of human foodstuff, these birds are known to eat almost anything. Experts consider sparrows to be ‘sentinel’ birds whose health can indicate the health of an ecosystem as a whole. They have been used as bio-monitors in some studies, giving reasons to believe that vehicular and industrial emissions, plastics and metal pollutants, microwave radiation from mobile phone towers and other factors are adversely impacting their numbers. With open graries becoming a thing of the past, flocks of sparrows have to fly away to crop fields — only to fall victims to chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Urban residential and office complexes with every square inch valued in hard money, have hardly any nooks and crannies to offer where these birds can nest. All-encompassing concrete and asphalt leave little scope for their quick dust or water baths. And so it is becoming increasingly rare for urban denizens to wake up to the chirruping of sparrows outside their bedroom windows. To make people aware of what they are missing, ture lover organizations have been celebrating March 20 as World Sparrows Day. The message is to appreciate and celebrate our common biodiversity too — for its members are disappearing just like the exotic ones. If humans can make it possible for such companion creatures to keep on thriving, they will be giving themselves a better chance of survival in the long run. Apart from cleaner and greener environs, it does not take much to make sparrows happy; putting up safe nesting boxes, little water containers and grain feeders would continue to give us the joy of their company.