Where have noisy, gregarious house sparrows gone?

Chandigarh (IANS) Cities and towns of Punjab and Haryana are no longer a habitat of the house sparrow, small plump brownish bird once closely associated with the man, ornithologists said on Saturday.

With their population drastically declining largely in urban areas over the last 20 years, its chirping has faded.

Ornithologists attribute a number of reasons for the decline of the house sparrow, Passer domesticus. They include lack of nesting sites in modern buildings, use of pesticides and non-availability of food.

Mohammed Dilawar, the man behind the first celebration World Sparrow Day, which falls on March 20, said five species of sparrows are found in India.

Out of the five, only one species is migratory. The most abundant and widespread is Passer domesticus.

“It’s important to save sparrows by installing nest boxes, bird feeders, planting native plants and reducing use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers,” he said while delivering a keynote virtual address organised by Pushpa Gujral Science City to mark World Sparrow Day.

He emphasised on saving sparrows to save humanity.

WWF-India Coordinator Gitanjali Kanwar said there are about 50 species of birds that live closest to human dwellings.

They include bulbul, sparrows, pigeons, warblers, parakeets, etc. Such birds find birdhouses safer, protective and habitable.

“It is the survival instinct that enables the endangered sparrows to shift their natural habitats from houses and buildings to the artificially built birdhouses,” she said.

Speaking at the occasion, Jalandhar-based Pushpa Gujral Science City Director General Neelima Jerath said the house sparrow is a bird that most of “us grew up with”.

“The chorus of chirping that greeted us at sunrise and sunset was as good as clockwork but slowly and surely these little delightful and hyperactive birds have bid adieu to our homes and cities. This has been an ongoing process since the 1990s.

“Further, each year March 20 is observed as the World Sparrow Day and rightly so, as these birds deserve our sincere conservation efforts to restore these birds to their genuine habitats.”

Science City Director Rajesh Grover said it was important to raise awareness about the decreasing population of sparrows. “We may hear stories from our next generation narrating once upon a time there was a little bird called a sparrow.”

Old-timers in Chandigarh say earlier houses had a number of crevices and holes. This enabled the bird to make nests. These days houses have little space for making nests.

Use of heavy doses of pesticides in kitchen gardens and fields results in the decline of invertebrate fauna. Small insects play a very important role in the survival of newborn sparrows.

Reduced spillage of grains, improved storage, decline in the practice of feeding sparrows, increased predation by owls and cats and competition for food by other species, including pigeons, have also threatened the existence of sparrows.

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