Every year 20th March is celebrated as World Sparrow Day. It is day designated to raise awareness of the House Sparrow and other common birds to urban environments, and of threats to their populations.
The idea is to convey the message of conservation of the House Sparrow and other common birds and also mark a day of celebration to appreciate the beauty of the common biodiversity which we take so much for granted.
This is an international initiative by the Nature Forever Society (NFS) of India in collaboration with the EcoSys Action Foundation (France). In recent years numerous other national and international organisations across the world also joined hands with this popular initiative.
Mohammed Dilawar, who was named one of the “Heroes of the Environment” for 2008 by Time for his efforts is an Indian conservationist who started his work by helping the House Sparrow in Nasik, India. Later on he came up with an idea of celebrating World Sparrow Day with the help of Nature Forever Society.
First Sparrow Day was celebrated in the year 2010 and in less than four years, the World Sparrow Day has become immensely popular and is celebrated in more than 40 countries across the globe and is gaining popularity in Europe and parts of south Asia.
The common bird house sparrow (Passer domesticus), whose nests dotted almost every house in the neighborhood as well as public places like bus bays and railway stations, where they lived in colonies and survived on food grains and tiny worms, is now a disappearing species.
In the past few years, this bird has been on the decline over much of its natural range, both in the urban and rural habitats.
Due to decrease in numbers, a bird as common as the sparrow was included by the IUCN in its Red Data List of threatened species in 2002 alongside the glamorous snow leopard, tiger and red panda.
Snow leopards are considered indicators of climate and the environmental changes at higher altitudes, sparrows are indicators of such detrimental changes in the urban ecosystem; and hence can be regarded as the snow leopard of the urban ecosystem.
Dwelling on statistics, bird experts and scientific officers have approximately pointed that, the sparrow population has dwindled by almost 60 percent in nearly all states in India. Major decrease was seen in Andhra Pradesh where the population declined by 80 percent.
The study conducted on peoples in various cities found that 25% of the locals haven’t seen a sparrow even once in the past decade. Unlike India, the Briton have scientifically proven statistical data since years with a decline rate as high as 67%.
A leading newspaper in the United Kingdom ‘The Independent’ offered a prize of £5,000 for a proper scientific explanation of the house sparrow’s extinction. Yet, more than 12 years after, its vanishing remains one of the great environmental mysteries. This prize still remains unclaimed.
So the decline of house sparrows is a global phenomenon and the species is declining in most of its natural range.
Possible Reasons for decline:-
- Architecture Changes – Traditional Indian old houses architecture allowed sparrows to make their nests in holes, roofs, crevices of old houses. But recent styled flats have no provision for sparrows to nest and lay eggs.
- Unleaded Petrol and Insecticides:- The vast uses of pesticides and insecticides in Indian farms and gardens have created a scarcity of insects. The unleaded fuel, believed to be eco-friendly, has harmful by-products (methyl nitrite). Combustion of these fuels kills small insects. Adult sparrows can survive without insects being a part of diet, but they need these to feed their young ones, and hence, the infant mortality rate of sparrows has gone up.
- Scarcity of grains:- The grains split from gunny bags were a major source of feeding birds like sparrows. The grains were dried in huge quantities out in the open. But now things are different because of huge food plaza and packaged food. The birds like crows and pigeons have outnumbered small birds. These birds dominantly occupy the feeding and nesting sites of small birds. It limits the birds their share of grains.
- Radiations:- Studies have showed the effects of mobile and microwave radiations on reproduction and fertility of eggs. Animals navigate by the Earth’s magnetic fields and these waves can disturb a bird’s ability to find their way home.
- Diseases:- Infection due to bacteria and viruses is also a major cause of concern.
To encourage efforts made towards this cause and to selflessly conserve the environment, NFS has started the first Sparrow Awards in Ahmadabad, Gujarat, on 20 March 2011.
Winners of Sparrow Awards 2014
Jag Mohan Garg
N. Shehzad & M. Saud
Jal Grahan Kameti, Piplantri
The organisation has recommended five simple measures for everyone to encourage house sparrows:
• Let an area of your garden go wild to encourage insects.
• Plant species such as hawthorn and ivy which provide thick vegetation for sparrows to hide in.
• Provide your birds with a home, using either a house sparrow terrace or a group of nest.
• Feed your birds; provide them with a suitable seed mix that includes large grains.
• Regularly clean your feeding stations to prevent disease.
Why we should celebrate sparrow day?
The aim for celebrating World Sparrow Day is not only to celebrate the event for a day, but to use it as a platform to conserve sparrows and sub species as well as the urban biodiversity. Events like this will bring together individuals, national and international groups.
It will also help in attracting the attention of government agencies and the scientific community to take notice of the need for the conservation of the common bird species and urban biodiversity.