Monday, 7 May 2012

Citizen Sparrow Survey Update

Daily News and Analysis, 7 May 2012, by Akshay Deshmane

Doff your hat to the bird watchers among yourselves in the city. More than a month after it was kicked off by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and the ministry of environment and forests, the country’s first project mapping the population density of house sparrows shows that Mumbai’s citizens have trumped those from other metropolitan cities in reporting sightings.

As per data recorded till Monday, 2,107 reports were received from India’s metropolitan cities. Of these, 492 were from Mumbai, 410 from Delhi, 404 from Bangalore, 285 from Pune, 186 from Hyderabad and 128 from Kolkata. The reports on sparrows’ population density, collated from residential areas, are categorised into ‘fair’, ‘few’, ‘large’, ‘very large’ and ‘none’. Mumbai also leads in the ‘fair’ and ‘few’ population density classifications, with 203 and 221 reports, respectively.

The data show that the city is just a chip off the old block — of the 7,100 reports from all states, more than 1,600 are from Maharashtra.

“The project seeks to study wider population trends at a particular locality in a specific timeline so that we can know the areas and habitats where sparrow populations have remained either constant, or have increased or decreased,” said Karthik K, project director of the Citizen Sparrow initiative. He credited the BNHS’ outreach work for the tremendous response from Mumbai. “But more importantly, the people of Mumbai are more willing to participate in such projects.”

An impressed public relations officer of the BNHS, Atul Sathe, said, “This is how conservation should happen, through common people’s participation. Otherwise, it becomes an activity limited to the academia. Also, this way, we can involve the average Indian in conservation by gathering data on sparrows population and then using it for research. If the project is a success, it can be replicated for other species. We will send the data to the environment ministry once they are properly compiled.”

Those looking to report sightings can do so on till May 31

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Organisations work together for Citizen Sparrow

A list of organisations in India helping Citizen Sparrow:


Bird Conservation Society, Gujarat

Birdwatchers' Society of Andhra Pradesh -- web page coming soon

Indian Bird Conservation Network

Kalpavriksh -- web page coming soon

Nature Forever Society

Madras Crocodile Bank Trust

Foundation for Ecological Research, Advocacy and Learning

Maharashtra PakshiMitra



Conservation India

Save Our Sparrows project

Sanctuary Asia

Plants & Animals Welfare Society - Mumbai

ACESSD, MG University

Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History

OSAI Environmental Organisation

People for Animals, Morena

Madras Naturalists' Society

Rishi Valley Education Centre

Citizen Sparrow: The Story So Far

The Bombay Natural History Society has launched ‘Citizen Sparrow', an online survey to study the decline in the population of house sparrows
“They are feeling my house to make a nest…”

“They are like family; they lived with us in our house…in the walls and old roofs…”

“They would build nests in our fans…and in every nook and cranny of the house. They would hop around eating crumbs and drinking water, even bathing in the dog's bowls…”

“They enjoy Basmati rice much more than the cheaper variety!”

It's stories such as these that make ‘Citizen Sparrow' so interesting. Launched by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), ‘Citizen Sparrow' is an online survey aimed at “documenting the presence or absence of sparrows” in India. Sparrows seem to have suddenly disappeared from our lives. Where have they gone? Conservation experts from across the country have come together to find out.

According to Dr Asad Rahmani, Director, BNHS, questions in Parliament about the fall in the population of sparrows triggered the survey. “The Ministry of Environment and Forests wrote to me asking me to prepare a report. I made one and the government replied that they would like BNHS to study sparrows. Initially, the question of mobile towers affecting sparrows came up and we did a literature survey to find out more. But we found that there were contradictory reports. There was no concrete evidence that mobile towers caused the decline. That led us to this project.” The subject being vast and since sparrows were found all over the country, the scientists decided to involve people in the project. “At the end of two months, we will analyse the results,” explains Rahmani.

So why are there fewer sparrows now when compared to the past? “There are multiple reasons for the decline. The major cause being pesticides,” says Rahmani. “They have killed a lot of soft-bodied insects. Young house sparrows feed on such insects — they are almost gone now. I can hardly see earthworms in the soil these days. It's because of all the chemicals we have brought in.”

In cities, sparrows lack nesting sites, he says. “The young ones are not healthy since the food they eat is harmful. They just die.” Rahmani wants to involve people in conservation. He says they will feel good about doing something for the environment. “We need a lot of data from the people for this project,” he says.

At the time of writing this article, ‘Citizen Sparrow' had about 4500 contributions. But, says Rahmani, this won't do. “We need more. In conservation, there is never enough.”

The Citizen Sparrow initiative was launched on April 1. It will close on May 31.

How does it work?

Spend a few minutes on the ‘Citizen Sparrow' website in order to do your bit for the bird. After registering at participants are asked to fill out a form with details on the frequency and number of sparrows observed in their locality during a certain time period. There is space to share interesting observations, anecdotes, and stories with fellow participants. (You can click on the ‘stories' tab in the website to read these.) One can also report on sparrow activity for various localities by filling out separate forms.

Citizen Sparrow: a new online survey to help find the reasons for Sparrow decline in India

Citizen Sparrow, a new initiative from the Bombay Natural History Society, will record areas of Sparrow absence and presence until 31 May. The website link is at the end of this post.

House Sparrows -- who can resist these chirpy, cheerful and charming birds?

Sparrows are found all over the world, almost everywhere that humans live. But strangely, sparrow populations have been in decline in many parts of the world, for reasons that are still unclear, although hotly debated! In India, sparrows used to be found in great abundance in all our cities, towns and villages; but sadly not any more.

Where are sparrows still found in India? Where were they found before? In which places have they declined the most?

The answers to these questions are crucial if we are to discover what ails them, and how to bring them back.

You can help!

By spending 5 minutes documenting the presence or absence of sparrows in localities you know well, both at present and at any time in the past, you will join enthusiasts all over the country in helping sparrows.

You will be asked a brief set of questions, including the precise location of areas you know (or knew) well, aspects of the habitat in these localities, sparrow presence or absence in these localities, and optional information about things like locations of nests, amount of green space, and so on. The questionnaire is very simple to fill, and there is also space for you to share your favouritesparrow stories!

Citizen Sparrow will run for two months, and closes on 31 May, so do participate now!


Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Drought and House Sparrows in England

Provide Water for House Sparrows

Those of us who live near London, England, must stop using our hoses to water gardens after 31 March.

This is because our natural water sources have been depleted over a recent series of dry and warm Springs that brought little rain.

Please remember to put water out for House Sparrows especially during the fledgling season.

There are many providers of hanging water bowls and traditional bird baths in the UK such as CJ WildBird and Living with Birds.

Thank you!

Fifty Terracotta Nests for Tagore thanks to Mukesh Jain

ibn live

KOCHI: Aiming to conserve the dwindling population of house sparrows, Jain�� Foundation, led by activist Mukesh Jain, has come forward with a novel��� venture to provide shelter for these little birds. As part of the conservation programme titled ‘Pakshi Samrakshana Bodhavalkarna Abyan’, artificial nests will be put up at different parts of� the city.

The programme, which will begin at Tagore Library this Sunday, will be� implemented with the help of local people.� “Nests will be distributed to members of Tagore Library to be kept on their houses. We will give away 50 nests made of clay in the first�� stage. More nests will be distributed to interested people in the later� stage. We hope participation of schools and other institutions in the project will help turn the programme a huge success,” Mukesh Jain said.

The number of house sparrows is dwindling with the city developing each day.
“The house sparrows live close to human habitat and depend on human beings.� Tiny nests are mostly seen on tiled roofs of old houses. Since, modern� houses are made of concrete roofing, these little scavengers find it hard�� to get shelter. With greenery vanishing from the cityscape, it has become�� our responsibility to conserve these birds. Through providing nests, we can help them find shelter to survive in the city,” Mukesh Jain said.

Mukesh Jain and the Jain Foundation have been active in bird conservation� activities for last few years. Mukesh has saved at least 30 birds trapped in kite strings on different occasions.

He is assisted in his venture by climbers who can scale tall trees and rescue the birds in distress.

Mukesh also provides water for thirsty birds during summer.

“The birds are� the most affected species owing to the rising temperature, especially in areas like West Kochi,” he said.

Concerned over the worsening situation, Mukesh conceived the idea of� involving the public in the programme. Last year, he had taken up the initiative to distribute earthen bowls which could be placed on the roof tops after filling it with water. Mukesh had been able to distribute over 160 such bowls last year.

House Sparrows Thrive in Sonepur, India

ibn live, 21 March 2012


ROURKELA: In its sustained effort to save the house sparrows from extinction, the Bonai sub-division in Sundargarh district organised a series of programmes to mark the World Sparrows Day on Tuesday.

�This was aimed at ensuring collective effort to help save the tiny bird. Bonai Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) AK Mishra who has been instrumental in conservation of these sparrows, roped in schoolchildren and traditional drama troupes to raise awareness on the issue.

�A rally taken out through the sub-divisional headquarters was followed by a function at the ITDA hall. Over 300 schoolchildren and drama troupes participated. Nearly 40 specially designed nesting pots were distributed among the children to attract house sparrows. The DFO asserted that more nesting pots would be supplied to people who wish to help protect the birds.

�The programme shed light on conservation measures and the threats that these birds face. Factors like increased use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers in gardens and farmlands led to the vanishing of the tiny birds.�

Focus was also laid on loss of natural habitat of house sparrows in human settlements due to concrete jungles.

�Among others, Bonai Sub-collector D Prashant Reddy spoke.
Mishra proudly claims that the number of house sparrows has gone past 40, besides, nearly 20 Munia birds, eight weaver birds, a few Maynas and pigeons are regular visitors to his garden.

SONEPUR: The days when sparrow nests dotted almost every house in the neighbourhood as well as public places like bus bays and railway stations, where they lived in colonies and survived on foodgrains and tiny worms, may be back soon. The diminutive house sparrows are now be found in large numbers here, an encouraging sign for the bird lovers.

The initiative of conservationist and Sonepur District Collector Gagan Bihar Swain which started a month back is paying dividends. As part of the initiative, administration hung hundreds of artificial nests, made of terracotta, across Sonepur town.

Worried over the decline in sparrows, once found in abundance, Swain took interest in their conservation with the support of the Forest Department and ornithologists and wildlife enthusiasts Lingraj Panda and Rabi Kumar Rout.

Sparrows are helpful in keeping the eco-system in check as they feast on insects such as caterpillars and beetles. These insects can destroy garden crops and fruit trees, while other insects, such as dipteran (double-winged) flies, can spread disease.

�Meanwhile, Swain convened a meeting on Tuesday evening to chalk out future plans to save the sparrows which was attended by Sonepur DFO R K Pradhan and Sonepur Municipal Chairman Prakash Sahu.