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