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.

Report from USA on Sparrow Decline and How One Man Learned to Love the 'Dirt Bird'

Al Clark, The Daily Reflector

Sparrow Decline

In addition to the pollen, some of us might have noticed during these early spring days small brown birds flittering into scraggly nests stuffed behind the letters of the grocery store sign, or swirling near the ceiling at the large garden center store or grabbing a French fry in the McDonald’s parking lot.

Some of my colleagues here have told me how they find these birds annoying and unsettling: “They freak me out,” is how one put it. Another one is bothered by their dinosaur-like feet. My wife, too, is not exactly a fan, mainly since one landed in her hair once at the St. Louis Zoo.

Now I’m not exactly a “bird nerd,” although some who know me might call me a “near bird nerd,” but I have to say that these creatures are not my favorites. When I see them I have dismissed them with little thought, and certainly without the admiration that follows the sighting of a bluebird or cardinal.

I’m speaking of the common house sparrow — one of that group I once called “dirt birds” because of their seemingly drab brown features. But this week I have learned more about these nearly anonymous creatures — most notably the fact that they are disappearing.

This past Tuesday — the first day of spring — was also World Sparrow Day, so proclaimed by a group known as the Nature Forever Society, an organization with international roots. This is the third year of this endeavor created to call attention to conservation in general and specifically the sparrow’s decline worldwide with the hope that the trend can be reversed.

But if they’re so annoying, why bother? Well, for one thing a closer look at the house sparrow reveals intricate markings and subtle coloration, but also these birds have long been closely associated with humans — living near us, depending upon us for food and nesting sites and in places around the world it is even considered a good omen if one nests in or around your home.

One Nature Forever conservationist suggests if we can’t save the house sparrow, whose lives play out among us and around us, how can we expect to save the world’s other threatened but far more hidden and elusive creatures?

The reasons for the sparrows’ worldwide decline are not totally understood, but include shrinking food sources and fewer nesting sites, changes in agricultural practices and the use of pesticides and fertilizers and the unknown but likely effect of steadily increasing microwave pollution from cellphone towers.

The poor birds have a lot of windmills to tilt against, maybe too many. But my attitude toward them has changed.

Not long ago a single sparrow found my feeder at the end of the day. Finding a seed there, he lingered a moment to eat. As I watched him, silhouetted against the plainness of my backyard, mine was a gift given and accepted. After this week I can more readily accept this bird’s presence as its gift to me in return — apparently now rarer and more precious than I knew.

Al Clark is executive editor of The Daily Reflector. Contact him at or at 252-329-9560.

International Conference: Speaking Up for the Sparrows, 20 March 2012


BCIL ZED Foundation conducted an International Sparrow Conference on 20 March, to raise awareness about the fall in the House Sparrow population in Bengaluru. 20 March is celebrated as the International sparrow day. As part of the conference there was a panel discussion on the birds, held at the Xavier Hall of St. Joseph's College, Lalbagh Road.


The first to speak was Dr. Abraham Verghese, of the Indian Institute for Research, who touched on how, several decades ago, places like Rajaji Nagar were just open land helping sparrow population. He added that several factors, like loss of habitat, food material, and roosting/nesting spaces contributed to the decline in the numbers of the sparrows. He also mentioned the importance of work done by stalwart birdwatchers like Dr.Joseph George, Dr M B Krishna and Dr S Subrahmanya.


Surekha Aithabathula, from Doordarshan, Hyderabad, talked about reporting on wildlife as a necessary alternative to reporting only on politics, and said that even here, the media had the power to distort reports and facts. She stressed the importance of responsible reporting when reporting any news on birds or wildlife. She mentioned that The Independent, a London newspaper, offered a prize of £5,000 in 1998 for a proper scientific explanation of the house sparrow's widespread disappearance from many of our towns and cities. This prize still remains unclaimed.


Karthik K, who works for Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), talked of the fact that no scientific data has yet been compiled on the efforts to conserve the sparrow, or the results of such efforts. He said that it was not enough to distribute sparrow nests; it was necessary to build up a monitoring system for these birds.


Murali H R, of the Namma Cycle Foundation, said that no large public gardens had been created in the past several decades in Bangalore. He said that fewer glass fa├žadedbuildings should be built, as these result in birds hitting themselves fatally against the glass. They also have no niches for the sparrows to nest, and thus contribute to the decline of the sparrows. He also added that perhaps, four more gardens like Lalbagh should be commissioned.


T B Dinesh, of the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), Servelots, spoke of the "birds and bees" and mentioned how lack of greenery led to lack of bees for pollination and hence to lack of food for birds. He mentioned the great extermination of sparrows in China. This was the campaign against the 'Four Pests', initiated in 1958 as a hygiene campaign by Mao Tzedong, who identified the need to exterminate mosquitoes, flies, rats, and sparrows. Sparrows were included on the list because they ate grains, robbing the people of the fruits of their labour. This resulted in the near-extinction of the birds in China. He also mentioned the cultural underpinnings of this social bird, in our stories and songs.


The Deputy Mayor, S Harish, who was also present, said that the Government would certainly support all measures to conserve the sparrow population and augment it.


DEEPA MOHAN was also part of this panel discussion as an amateur birdwatcher. "I spoke for the laypersons, who may not be ornithologists, but can do their bit for the sparrow population by both encouraging nesting and feeding, and documenting the presence of the birds."

Dr Chakravarthy, HoD, Department of Etymology, Gandhi Kisan Vikas Kendra (GKVK) , moderated the discussion.

Several members of the audience also contributed with their inputs. There were suggestions for field trips, even a plea to leave the birds alone to make a resurgence by themselves. Hoping that the points raised in the discussion would be translated into action, the audience and the panelists then dispersed. ⊕

Deepa Mohan
28 Mar 2012

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Social Media and Saving the Sparrows: Tweet Your Chirps!

CHENNAI: For most people, the only sparrow that probably rings a bell is 'Captain Jack Sparrow'. Movie buffs will remember Johnny Depp for his eccentric role in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. But for World Sparrow Day (March 20), this year themed, 'Chirp for the Sparrow! Tweet for the Sparrow', it seems a massive cyber campaign for public awareness across the globe is underway.

Says Nashik-based 'sparrow man' Mohammed Dilawar, "There are only five species of sparrows in the country, apart from the house sparrows that are on a steady decline." And with large numbers of people required to support conservation efforts, he adds, "Just tagging a poster to create awareness about house sparrows on Facebook or forwarding an SMS encouraging people to place a bowl of water outside their homes can go a long way in spreading the word."

Dilawar, also the founder of the Nature Forever Society, an NGO which works for conservation of� biodiversity and house sparrows in particular, has a following of 1, 292 members on the community's Facebook page. An elderly member, Ramachandran Seeplaputhur uploads a colourful picture of a house sparrow and then posts below, "Spotted them on the neighbouring building.

Their sweet song is something out of this world !" While on another social networking site, Twitter, a barrage of tweets on the reasons for sparrow decline and its prevention pop up one after the other.

Bhavani, an enthused supporter tweets her resolve for the day, "world�sparrow�day: 20th march! mobile towers one of the big causes for the decline... lets all switch off... to ever more chirps!"

And it isn't just the older generation, that grew up with the pleasant chirps of� these once common house sparrows, that is joining the cause.
As one would expect with rampant social media taking over many a household, a large section of youngsters are joining in as well.
KV Sudhakar, president of the Madras Naturalists Society, says, "Our youngest member is only 12 years old and is very serious about bird watching and conservation." He adds, "So, in future, we hope to take this initiative to schools in Chennai and encourage the students to keep nestboxes and feeders on campus to attract these birds back to our urban spaces."

Call for Conclusive Studies on the Reasons for Sparrow Decline

Unlike humans, birds can’t tolerate pollution. A few of them may adapt to certain degrees, but not to extremes.

Thanks to pollution, the house sparrow, which was once abundant in Chennai, has now become rare.

Except for the ubiquitous crow, majority of the indigenous birds have become rare or endangered in Chennai owing to unchecked urbanisation and depleting green cover, admit environmentalists and bird watchers in the city who will be observing the World Sparrow Day on March 20.

“Chennai was once home to sparrows, but today their population has reduced drastically and the same is the case with several other species.

We often blame cell phone towers and radiations as the reason for the disappearance of sparrows, but the problem is that we do not have a concrete study or conclusive report to prove that radiation affects bird life”, said Mr Sudhakar, president, Madras Naturalists Society.

MNS has been observing resident and migratory birds and plans to release a map indicating the sparrow habitats in Chennai, he added.

Professor D. Narasimhan, department of Botany, Madras Christian College, said, “The house sparrow is strongly associated with human habitations, and can live in urban or rural settings, but the city’s housing pattern has become unfriendly for nesting sparrows”.

Also, sparrows are low flying birds and cannot build nests in high-rises and flats, explained the botanist. Once sparrows used to nest above switch boards or in electrical fittings, but today even wirings are sealed leaving the tiny birds without space for nesting, he added.

The house sparrow feeds mostly on seeds of grains and weeds, and insects; it can perform complex and unusual tasks to obtain food. Details into its food availability can also help trace the reason behind their disappearance, said Mr Sudhakar.

Modern Life and Old Enemies (Cats and Crows) Reduce Sparrow Populations

Song of the sparrow
Mar 20, 2012:
The World Sparrow Day, being observed today, reminds us of the need to welcome sparrows back into our cities. There are many reasons for the disappearance of this tiny bird, including a change in farming practices, architecture and lifestyles, writes Antony P U
The house sparrow (Passer domesticus) has become a rarity over the years due to various reasons. Noisy and gregarious, this cheerful exploiter of man’s wastefulness is a Red List species today. Human-altered habitats, particularly farm areas, are preferred by them. House sparrows are granivorous and 96 per cent of the adult diet is made up of livestock feed, plant materials like grain, fruit, seeds, and garden plants. G arbage, bread crumbs and refuse from fast-food restaurants can support sparrow populations in urban habitats. The current worldwide distribution of this bird is a result of this commensal relationship of it with humans.

As agriculture and human civilisations expanded, house sparrows experienced a correlated and massive expansion in range and numbers. Due to their abundance, ease to raise and general lack of fear towards humans, the house sparrow has proved to be an excellent model for many avian biological studies. To date, there have been nearly 5,000 scientific papers published with the house sparrow as the study species.

They are persistent and fairly intelligent. House sparrows are aggressive and social, both of which increases their ability to compete with most native birds. Sparrows do not migrate. While house sparrows are tolerant of disturbance by humans, they can in no way be considered tame. Their success lies in their ability to exploit new habitats, particularly those influenced by humans.

Falling numbers

House sparrow numbers have fallen significantly since they peaked in the 1920s, when food and wastes from horses furnished an unlimited supply of food. One question of considerable interest concerns the catastrophic house sparrow population declines in several urban centres of the world.

Possible reasons proposed are changing agricultural practices such as a shift to monoculture crop plantings and sealing grain stores to reducing access and spillage, increased pollution, use of herbicides/pesticides and its impact on food sources. There are various other causes for dramatic decrease in their population, one of the more surprising being the introduction of unleaded petrol.

Denis Summers-Smith who is recognised as a world expert on sparrows presumes that the unleaded fuel, believed to be eco-friendly, had harmful byproducts. The fuel uses Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) as an anti-knocking agent. Along with byproducts of combustion, this kills small insects. The insecticidal nature of the byproducts makes the food for those birds feeding on insects scarce. Though adult sparrows can survive without insects in their diet, they need them to feed their young. With fewer insects to feed on, the infant mortality rates of sparrows went up.

Reduction in areas of free growing weeds or a drop in the number of badly-maintained buildings, which are important nesting opportunities for sparrows, have also contributed to the disappearance of the bird. The widespread use of chemical pesticides in farmlands has resulted in the killing of insects on which these birds depend. Seed-eating birds like sparrows have to depend on soft-bodied insects to feed their young ones.

Predation by crows and cats

The other possibility could be increased predation by crows and cats. Crows have grown in number as a result of garbage accumulation in the city. Changing lifestyles and architectural evolution have wreaked havoc on the bird’s habitat and food sources. Modern buildings are devoid of cozy nesting sites for sparrows like ventilators, eaves and crannies. This, coupled with disappearing home gardens, are playing a part in the sparrow’s disappearing act.

My casual observations in selected areas of Bangalore to correlate the abundance of the bird with architecture of the buildings, commercial activities going on, human population and their lifestyle, etc convey that sparrows are not totally extinct from Bangalore, but there are still areas where significant populations of this bird exists. Some such areas that I came across in the southern and eastern parts of Bangalore are the Rajendra Nagar slum in Koramangala, Anjaneya Temple Street and AR Colony in Adugodi, S G Palaya, Ejipura, New Tippasandra in Indira Nagar, wholesale fruit market in Huskur, etc.
A moderate number was observed in churches like Infant Jesus Church in Vivek Nagar and St. Mary’s Basilica in Shivajinagar. They were active even in the vicinity of various small old temples buildings in Adugodi and Ejipura. It is very interesting to note that sparrows are mostly the companions of poor and middle income groups in slums and old villages within the city where people have still retained their thatched houses and their old lifestyles and food habits. Shops and other establishments like flour mills, grocery shops, where they store grains in open bags, etc, invite more sparrows in slums and villages. Even the old-styled electric poles with all the wires strewn out haphazardly form ideal roosting places for the birds here.

Architecture makes a difference

Not even a single sparrow was noticed in any of the posh, planned residential layouts like Koramangala, Jayanagar, BTM Layout, Indira Nagar, etc. or even in the outskirts of Bangalore with organised apartments. Living in close proximity with humans, sparrows used to build their nests below tiled roofs. With contemporary architecture making a clean sweep in Bangalore, tiled roofs have become a thing of the past, and sparrows have lost many a nesting spot. Also, the birds were used to pecking at grain in the backyards of homes where people cleaned paddy or wheat. Grain spills outside godowns or provision stores drew a lot of sparrows twittering over them. But now, with backyard cleaning virtually extinct, and polythene packaging taking over from gunny bags, there are no handy spills, and neither are there twitters.

In recent times, sparrows are not the only birds that have moved out from cities. In Bangalore, one used to see a lot of warblers, barbets, bee-eaters, kingfishers, golden orioles and sun birds. Today, most of them have given way to scavenger birds like crows, mynahs and kites which feed on the large amount of garbage generated in the City. Our smoky and unfriendly cities may be forcing birds to take wing and head elsewhere. The challenge is to arrest that and to bring back some of these little winged beauties that were common not so long ago. This requires giving up on luxurious lifestyles that allow harmonious living with other species. The World Sparrow Day reminds us of this need.

Conference on Sparrows told some areas are too warm for Sparrow life

As an increase in the number of malls and apartments has resulted in limited space for building nests, house sparrows have begun to fly away from the city.
Speaking at a conference on house sparrows at St Joseph’s Arts and Science College, Dr Rajshekhar, who has studied sparrows in the city, said: “Sparrows survive in areas where there are enough food sources like markets and old buildings with slope roofs or tiles or shades as well as in cool places which are not very high. As the city has started expanding, sparrows have lost their habitat and have moved to outskirts and villages.”
Though urbanisation has not affected sparrows in cities like Mumbai, it has clearly made an impact on them in Bangalore. “We did not keep statistics of sparrows as we did not expect an exponential decline in their number,” TV Ramachandra from Centre for Sustainable Technologies, Indian Institute of Science, said.
“Sparrows are known to live close to human habitats. Earlier, people used to throw grains of rice or cow peas which have a lot of protein; this attracted sparrows. Now, nobody does it. The city has become a concrete jungle with barely any space for sparrows,” he said.
“They like to live in areas not more than six meters. With high-rise apartments mushrooming, such areas are limited. Also, high rise buildings have glass surfaces which are not conducive for the sparrows’ survival. The temperature in the city too has increased, leading to the decline in their population,”  he concluded.

Film, Radio and Online Efforts to Save the Sparrow in India

The Hindu : Spare a thought for the sparrow

What's happened to house sparrows? World Sparrow Day, observed on March 20, tries to make people aware of the importance of sparrows in our environment. A few environmentalists talk about these birds that were once a common sight in our cities
They were once a common sight, these little birds that are so intrinsic a part of our larger existence. But we began to take them for granted and ceased to take notice of them. Today most of us would be hard pressed to spot the humble house sparrow, known as ‘angadikuruvi' / ‘arikkilli' / ‘annakilli' / ‘veethukilli' in local parlance, and we need something like World Sparrow Day, observed on March 20 every year since 2010, to remind us of our close connection to the one bird that has, over centuries, successfully adapted itself to human life.
“Perhaps it's because we are all so enamoured by the exotic that we cease to notice the wealth of flora and fauna in our own backyard,” muses wildlife photographer Balan Madhavan. Environmental filmmaker Suresh Elamon adds: “Once upon a time, nests of house sparrows were to be found in almost every household as well as in public places such as markets (hence the name angadikuruvi), bus bays, and railway stations where they lived in colonies and survived on food grains, insects, and worms. In fact, they live wherever humans live and in such close quarters to us too. In my younger days, I remember seeing hordes of them fluttering around Chalai market. House sparrows nowadays are not an endangered species, but in all probability they are facing a crisis of survival in what was once their natural range.”


The reasons for the decline of the house sparrow (Passer domesticus indicus) are many, say the experts. “The exact reason cannot actually be pinpointed. Studies show that it may be because of the destruction of its habitat, what with increasing urbanisation and the supermarket culture taking over local markets, lack of insects that are vital for it's young, and even electromagnetic pollution from mobile phone towers that harm its reproductive cycle,” explains Suresh.
Creating awareness about these birds seems to be the key to their survival. “That is why a ‘World Sparrow Day' is important. It is a step in the right direction,” says Biju Mathew, a city-based programming executive with All India Radio, Ananthapuri FM, who won the prestigious Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union's prize for 2011 for the radio documentary Oru Kunjattakuruviyude Aathma Kadha (An Autobiography of a Sparrow) written and produced by him. It is a first person account of a sparrow that has built a nest on the terrace of a house, speaking to the young girl of the house about its life and the problems its kind faces in the world.
“Children sometimes call the sparrow Kunjattakuruvi. In the documentary we have touched upon a range of subjects including habitat destruction, food insecurity, and even incidents such as the ‘Kill a sparrow campaign' during Mao Zedong's rule in China. People, especially children, should be made aware of the importance of the sparrow,” says Biju.
There is however another side to the story. Some birders and experts are divided on whether there is actually a decline in sparrow population. “This is because there has never been any proper scientific database of these birds; never in Kerala, at least. We are more or less going by the frequency of sightings when we talk about the so-called decline. In fact, sparrows have been sighted building nests on mobile phone towers! Perhaps the only recent data is that which is mentioned in Birds of Kerala: Status and Distribution, published by DC Books,” says Dileep K.G., Head of the Department of Sociology, Kalady Sankaracharya University, and president of the Cochin Natural History Society, an NGO for bird conservation.


The society has been running an online sparrow monitoring project since 2010 (birding enthusiasts can record sightings on an online Excel spreadsheet). The Nature Forever Society based in Pune too is running a similar programme – Common Bird Monitoring of India (on its website There are also some measures put in place by other societies such as Kottayam Nature Society to monitor sparrows, while organisations like the city-based Writers and Nature Lovers Forum have installed around 25 nests in Palayam market, which was once a hub for these chirpy birds.
One at a time
As always, individual efforts count the most, and all it takes is a pot with a small hole that is hung somewhere outside to get sparrows to come calling. Beena Menon, a Kochi-based bank employee and birding enthusiast, put up three nests on the balcony of her apartment at Thammanam, a couple of years ago. Today she has over 10 sparrows that visit her nests. “Sparrows, I've noticed, are very territorial. I ensure that the holes in the nests are just big enough for a sparrow to enter. Otherwise the magpie robin will usurp the space! All I do is put out some feed – thena (a sort of seed) and a trough of water. And voila! I wake up to birdsong everyday!” says Beena.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Nature Forever Society Helps People Conserve Sparows

Nature Forever Society helps people conserve sparrows
By Rama Menon
07 Mar 2012

On March 20, when World Sparrow Day is celebrated, Nashik-based environmentalist Mohammed Dilawar can tell himself: ‘Well, I have done it’. For, his Nature Forever Society has succeeded in raising awareness among the common man from every nook and corner of the country on the need to conserve sparrows.

It has been few years now since Dilawar realized the importance of including the common man in sparrow conservation given the fact that sparrows are not found in the wilderness but live in homes and the immediate surroundings of humans.

Mohammed Dilawar's efforts to save the sparrows is showing encouraging results
The new urban architecture that is not bird-friendly, the mushrooming microwave towers, chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and the introduction of exotic plants in gardens, have all taken a toll on these hapless creatures. Once ubiquitous, they are now found in select pockets.

However, it is too early to lose hope. There are still some people who want to desperately invite the sparrows into their homes. The feeders and nest boxes made by Nature Forever Society (NFS) have come in handy for bird lovers.

My fourth floor apartment in Hyderabad boasts of five nests - two NFS nests, two natural nests and one Nike shoe box-turned nest. The millets (bajra) in the feeder has to be replenished every two weeks!

Subha Nair's 12th floor apartment in Malad, Mumbai, is testimony to the success of the nest box. She has a pair of sparrows nesting in the NFS nest box.

Vijayta Gupta has birds of all kinds flocking to her home in Gurgaon, including peacocks, parakeets, mynahs, and of course sparrows. She says, "I feed so many species in my balcony,” adding, “but my neighbours are particularly unhappy with squirrels because they feel -the once-slim and sleek squirrels now look like fat rats!"

Oan Dilawar of NFS adds, "may be your neighbours are not aware of the beautiful species residing in and around their homes. But it feels great to know that you are there to support all species right from a squirrel to a peacock."

The water-bath in Dushyant Parasher's Noida home invites not just birds but also squirrels. And they all live in peaceful co-existence!

Karthik Vallioor is not so lucky though. He says, "Chennai seems to have lost its sparrows. I installed my nest almost 3 months ago, but haven’t yet spotted any sparrows.”

"I had not seen a sparrow for a long time but surprisingly saw a lot of them at the Bangalore Airport and that too in the crowded restaurant. They were happily pecking at the leftover food in the floor and table," says D. Madan Mohan of Coimbatore.

At Nin Taneja's New Delhi home, bulbuls come and check out the feeder he has installed. He says there are squirrels and sometimes mynahs and doves, and Nin is still hoping that sparrows will come calling some day.

Pushpa Anand says her Dallas, Texas home has plenty of sparrow visitors. The rangoli (kolam) drawn with rice flour attracts scores of sparrows and she is always worried what will happen to them when she is out of town.

David Bale of the UK sums up the sentiments of sparrow lovers, "Thanks to Mohammed Dilawar and the Nature Forever Society for opening my eyes to the worldwide problem of declining sparrow populations.

“I feel most people in the UK think it's a problem only in London or only in some of UK's large cities. I work as a volunteer warden at Paxton Pits Nature Reserve in rural Cambridgeshire, 60 miles north of London. Two years ago we re-sited the feeding table at our Visitors Centre and since then we have had an increasing number of house sparrows visiting the centre."

Dilawar says he feels the happiest when he receives feedback from people about the sparrow visits to their homes. He rightly believes that it is difficult to convince people to save the tiger when they are unable to do anything to save the flora and fauna in their immediate surroundings.

Saving the sparrow could be just the right beginning to a more vibrant wildlife protection movement. To adopt a nest box or a feeder from NFS, you can check out:

Monday, 5 March 2012

World Sparrow Day, 20 March 2012, What you can do!

WORLD SPARROW DAY....20 MARCH 2012: What you can do!

from The Hindu, 5 March 2012

Adopt a Sparrow Nestbox from

Concerned over the dwindling population of house sparrows, those diminutive birds that first connected you to nature as a child and left a lasting impression?

Then join the global campaign to attract sparrows back to your home by creating a little space for them. Tweaking the earlier themes slightly, World Sparrow Day (March 20) organisations involved in the conservation of house sparrows are coming together to work for “House the sparrow” this year.

Mohammed Dilawar of the Nature Forever Society that has been in the forefront of conserving house sparrows across the country said, “This year, we want people to throw open their homes, welcome and make sparrows part of their families.”

“We do not intend to make it just a one-day event to raise public awareness about the decline of the house sparrow and throw light on the problems faced by the species in its daily fight for survival, but inspire people to take concrete steps.”

These include adopting a nest box, a feeder and providing food and clean drinking water every day. “By adopting a nest box (for details click you are giving sparrows a home and helping them start their own family. As it has increasingly become difficult to find food and water, the next step should be to provide them. Grains such as broken rice or bajra can be filled into the scientifically designed feeders that can be hung in balconies or windows. If this is done continuously, our experience shows the return of sparrows back to localities that they were deserted earlier.”

Such sustained efforts are required to save the sparrows considering the pace of degradation of their immediate environment. “While significant attention has been paid by experts as well as the government to conserve endangered and exotic wildlife species like the tigers and elephants, common animals, birds and plants face a bleak future due to general neglect and oversight. A case in point is the Indian vulture, once widespread species that is now on the brink of extinction.”

The reasons for the house sparrows' slow but noticeable disappearance has been labelled as one of the biggest mysteries of recent times, he said. A leading newspaper in the United Kingdom - a country that has witnessed one of the biggest declines of the house sparrow population in recent times - declared a cash prize to anyone who could solve the mystery. Needless to say, the reward remains unclaimed, he added.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Indian Temple Town Sets Up Sparrow City

Sparrows find refuge in Indian temple town
News Date: 20th February 2012

Sonepur is the first district in India to conserve house sparrows. People here began a drive Sunday to conserve the bird species, which is on the verge of extinction.

The venture to save the dwindling population of house sparrows is jointly taken up by the district administration and the department of forest and environment.

Around 100 artificial nests specially modeled for nesting of house sparrows have been installed on the roof of the Gundicha temple, which is a hub of house sparrows. Some nests were distributed among the local residents who showed interest in the conservation drive. An awareness meeting on the conservation of house sparrows was also held.

Sonepur, also known as Subarnapur, is a town and district headquarters of Subarnapur district of Orissa, eastern India.

Sushil Tripathy, Sonepur forest range officer and coordinator of the drive, said conservationists worldwide were concerned about the dwindling population of house sparrows. "The dwindling population of house sparrows is of global concern and several campaigns and drives are being taken up to save these birds. Sonepur is the first district in the country where an official initiative has been made to conserve house sparrows. There are instances of individual efforts in Berhampur and Keonjhar, but this is the first official initiative," Tripathy said.

He added that two environmentalists who worked for conservation of house sparrows in Berhampur had surveyed the population of house sparrows in the district. "They found that there were no signs of the birds except in a few villages. In Sonepur, the birds were found in very few numbers. They had prescribed the model nest, which would serve as the habitat of these birds. Around 100 terracotta nests were built for the nesting. Some more were distributed among the local residents to use in their homes," he said.

Tripathy said the administration was planning to take the initiative to other parts of the district soon. "We will select seven villages from each blocks of Sonepur where there is a population of the bird. Soon we will involve them in the drive by providing them with the required number of artificial nests. This will pay off in the long run," he said.

According to environmentalist Ghasiram Panda, the dwindling population of the bird is because of the loss of their natural habitat.

"If we can provide them with an alternative habitat, their population may grow. In this respect, it is a unique and innovative idea to provide them with artificial nests, which have all the facilities of nesting. It is important to save these birds from extinction", Panda said.

Source: GNA

Sunday, 5 February 2012

India: House Sparrows set up homes in SACON free nests

Sparrows flock to nests placed at homes in Ganapathy Ma Nagar

COIMBATORE: V Shanmugham and his family don't require an alarm to wake up. Each morning, they are woken up by the chirping sparrows that nest in their house.

A few months ago, Shanmugham, a regional manager in a private company, was given a nest and sparrow food by students of Salim Ali Center for Ornithology and Natural Sciences and Young Indians.

These students were conducting an experiment in Ganapathy Ma Nagar to strengthen the sparrow population, which is fast dwindling.

Shanmugham noticed a pair of sparrows nested inside a lamp cover in his garden. The students encouraged him to place the nest closer to his house.

"I am happy to help in this cause," he said.

Within a few days, he noticed a pair of sparrows in the next.

He added another nest, inviting more sparrows.

Now he has five to six sparrows that have made their nest in his home.

P Gnanasekaran, another resident of Ma Nagar said the more nests he put up at home, more sparrows set up home there.

Joseph Reginald, research scholar at SACON involved in the project said that ever since the project was initiated there is considerable increase in the sparrow population in the area.

"During our study, we found 15 locations where sparrows thrive. Ganpathy Ma Nagar and Walayar were selected for this project which started in August, with 90 nests placed in various areas. At least 300 sparrows were identified in Ganapathy Ma Nagar, which is the highest congregation in the city. About 70% of the nests placed in other areas have been occupied by the birds, indicating that nesting has helped improve breeding potential in the region," said Reginald.

Rapid urbanisation and increasing pollution is spelling doom for the small sparrow, which was earlier found in large numbers in the city. "Sparrows have been dwindling mainly due to lack of food and nesting sites. Modern buildings do not provide crevices and nooks for them to nest. Also, sparrow fledglings feed exclusively on insects for the first 15 days," he said.

The insect population is on the decline due to lack of native plants and other vegetation in urban areas, he added. Conservation in India is happening in isolation. There is a need to involve the common man. "Distributing bird feeders will directly leave conservation efforts in the hands of the people," Reginald added.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
SparrowSquad notes this is the second free nest project that has been successful in India. People in other countries, cities and towns may want to try providing nests to encourage the House Sparrow to live where they live. Meanwhile, congratulations to SACON, to its dedicated students and to the people who responded so positively to the project.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Native North American White Throated Sparrow in UK

See British Birds magazine,October 2011, Vol. 104,555-634, pp 621-22

"Multiple arrivals of White-throated Sparrows are nothing new, but the arrival of at least seven birds in one spring is exceptional."

The birds first arrived in Cornwall in May 2011, then in Fair Isle, Isles of Scilly, Shetland in May, and in June they were spotted in Caernarfonshire, Suffolk and Lincolnshire.

"A significant clue as to how these sparrows crossed the Atlantic came in the shape of one individual that arrived in Sothanmpton Docks, Hampshire, at 6.30 am on 6th May 2010. It was the last of five that had been on the deck of the Queen Mary II ever since leaving New York on 29 April."

Four of the birds left the ship before it docked.

"Its ready tolerance of human presence and willingness to seek human sanctuary on boats are useful survival tactics."

2011 saw a larger number of White-Throated Sparrows than usual which suggests more of the birds are taking a cruise and surviving!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Success for the Writers and Nature Lovers Forum: Nestboxes bring back the House Sparrow to open market in India

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Wooden ‘nests’ installed at the Connemara Market have apparently become a hit with sparrows. The cages were installed on November 11 to woo house sparrows which were fast disappearing from the city. More than ten of the 20 cages at the market have feathered occupants now, journalist and bird enthusiast C Rahim, convener of Writers’ and Nature Lovers’ Forum, which set up the cages, said.

’One positive trend is that the headload workers, the small traders and customers have taken to the birds. If they find that any of the cages are lying vacant, they shift it to a more suitable spot to woo the birds,’ Rahim said.

’They also find time to spread grain for the birds,’ he added.

The once-ubiquitous house sparrows are not a common sight in market places and other urban centres these days. Rapid urbanisation, disappearance of tiled roofs which offer nesting spots and the change that has happened in the nature of market places have been cited as reasons for their gradual disappearance.

’House sparrows prefer populated places, especially markets, where feed, grain for instance, is readily available. But now shops keep food items in packets. So, feed also is not available as before,’ Rahim said.

It was in this context that the Writers’ and Nature Lovers’ Forum decided to set up the cages.

After monitoring the progress of the Connemara project, the Forum plans to move on to the Chalai market.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Orach plant and the Sparrows

A letter by Barbara Woodling, Gravesend, Kent, UK, published in Birds Magazine about a back garden Sparrow Spectacular caused by an Orach plant.

"Last autumn, a few feet beyond my kitchen window, the sparrows staged a spectacular aerobatic dsiplay on fronts of ripening red orach.

The stems arched and drooped under their constantly changing featherweight burdens as the birds prospected for the most succulent seeds. Some fed on the ground, pecking at fallen seeds like animated balls of brown fethers.

Occasionally one or two sparrows flew to nearby fennel, golden against the rich red of the orache, to refresh the palate with a few fennel seeds before returning to their favourite treat.

Last year was a good breeding year for the sparrows and my garden boasts a nearly respectable sized flock for these bird-impoverished times. I have to confess a glow of personal satisfaction over their breednig success, since have dutifully kept the feeders replenished and water bowls cleaned and filled throug the breeding season.

By the time they left, the orache was reduced to a few pathetic, bent and broken stalks. What is it about orache that makes it so irresistible for sparrows? They didn't leave much foer their migrating winter couisns, but there will be enough scattered seed to produce some more plants for them to vandalise next year if all goes well and they return in numbers.

As always, I wish they would stay here, where they would be fed and watered, with plenty of winter proteciton provided by ivy and other evergreens, and where they would be relatively safe. Only relatively, of course,, because while the neighbourhood cats do not need to supplement their diet with sparrow, the don't see it like that, and try their utmost to do a spot of poaching in the garden."

About Orach

Orach is great for birds like finches, bunting and sparrows because of the large amount of seed it produces.

Orach is an annual grown for leaves like spinach that are often cooked in the same way.

Also known as 'mountain spinach', 'French spinach', 'sea purslane' and 'salt bush' for its tolerance of alkaline soil. The latin name is Atriplex hortensis L.

It is a Eurpean and Siberian native, considered t be one of the oldest cultivated plants.

It grows to 5 and 6 feet high, with a seed stalk that rises to 8 feet. Now THAT'S the part the birds love!!

Orach seeds can be purchased at

National Survey of House Sparrow Numbers in India

A national survey of House Sparrow populations in India has been planned the Bombay Natural History Society to help identify the reasons for the huge decline in population over the past years in order to construct effective and targetted preservation strategies based upon the findings.

Survey questions include:

How many Sparrows do you think are in your area?
What is the area of the locality?
Where do you find the nests?
When was your house built?
Is it an inpdendent house or part of an apartment complex?
Do you have open vegetation close to your home?

Much information can be inferred from the answers and conservation plans can be made upon the results.

It suggested rice as a Sparrow food supply is more difficult for the birds to find and eat. In the past, rice "was transported in gunny bags which invariably had holes and the birds used to feed off the spillage. Now, with rice being transported in plastic bags, the birds have been deprived of their food," said T Murugavel of the NGO Environment Monitoring and Action Initiative.

He also noted that Sparrows are found in cities, towns and suburbs where the older style buildings and houses "have spaces for the birds to nest, unlike modern houses."

(The Times of India, 16 October 2011)

We look forward to the results of the survey and the conversation efforts it generates.

Who killed Cock Robin?

"I", said the Sparrow, "With my little bow and arrow, I killed Cock Robin."

The traditional English folksong and rhyme is sometimes interpreted as a commemoration of the death of Robin Hood, who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. The rhyme describes the community effort made to give Cock Robin a dignified funeral, suggesting Robin Hood was respected by a large number of people who wanted him to be remembered and honoured after his death.

Who killed Cock Robin?"Who killed Cock Robin?"
"I", said the Sparrow.
"With my little bow and arrow, I killed Cock Robin."

"Who saw him die?"
"I", said the Fly.
"With my little eye, I saw him die."

"Who caught his blood?"
"I", said the Fish.
"With my little dish, caught his blood."

"Who will make the shroud?"
"I", said the Beetle.
"With my thread and needle, I will make the shroud."

"Who will dig his grave?"
"I", said the Owl.
"With my pick and shovel, I will dig the grave."

"Who will be the parson?"
"I", said the Rook.
"With my little book, I will be the parson."

"Who will be the clerk?"
"I", said the Lark.
"If it is not in the dark, I'll be the clerk."

"Who will carry the link?"
"I", said the Linnet.
"I'll fetch it in a minute, I'll carry the link."

"Who will be chief mourner?"
"I", said the Dove.
"I mourn for my love, I will be chief mourner."

"Who will carry the coffin?"
"I", said the Kite.
"If it is not through the night, I will carry the coffin."

"Who will bear the pall?"
"We", said the Wren.
"Both the cock and the hen, we will bear the pall."

"Who will sing a psalm?"
"I", said the Thrush,
as she sat on a bush.
"I will sing a psalm."

"Who will toll the bell?"
"I", said the Bull.
"Because I can pull, I will toll the bell."

All the birds of the air fell a-sighing and a-sobbing,
When they heard the bell toll for poor Cock Robin.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Activist Organisations in India

Followers of SparrowSquad on Facebook - - are familiar with the research, educational projects and other activities in India designed to encourage House Sparrow numbers to grow. Here are contacts for the three most active groups:

Nature Forever Society was founded by Dilawar Mohammed to Save the Sparrow by distributing free nestboxes to encourage the Sparrows and free binoculars to encourage people to watch them.

Nature Forever Society
Gayatari Naga (opposite Siddarth Hotel)
Pune Road
422011 Maharashtra



Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology an Natural History (SACON) recently launched a projects for high school students in Gahapsay, Coimbatore, to distribute feeders and food for House Sparrows (1 September 2011, India Times).

Anaikatty (Post)
Coimbatore- 641 108
Tamil Nadu

Website: http//

Bombay Natural History Society is very active in all aspects of bird conservation and protection.

Bombay Natural History Society
Hornbill House
Shaheed Bhagat Singh Road
400 023