Where have the sparrows gone?

Today, on World Sparrow Day, City Express talks to a few experts on how to bring the sparrows back.

Published: 20th March 2013 07:49 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th March 2013 07:49 AM   |  A+A-

World-Sparrow-Day

Most of us have memories of waking up to cheery chirpy sounds of sparrows. These tiny, plump, brown-grey birds with short stubby tails were once visible all over the place and very much a part of our landscape. Over the years, this humble member of the passer family has disappeared from our ever expanding concrete jungle. Having lost something which we had often taken for granted, on the World Sparrow Day, let us spare a thought for the sparrows.

Twenty years ago in Bangalore, there were 25,000 sparrows per square kilometre. Over the years, their numbers declined, as the concrete jungle spread its parasitic presence. Five years ago, the numbers went down further to 600 sparrows per square kilometre. Pathetically, now their numbers are only 50 per square kilometre, said Dr Harish Narayan Dentist turned wild life conservationist, who three years ago launched the campaign,' Bring back the Sparrow' in Bangalore. Dr. Harish Narayan firmly believes that we can bring the sparrows back to our homes if only we take some persuasive and consistent efforts. “There is a reason why it is called a house sparrow. Primarily, they need food and water. And, they are grain eaters”, said Dr Narayan

“Keep some small grains like millets in a saucer and fill some water in a shallow bowl on your balconies or the terrace. Keep doing it everyday. Don't lose heart if they do not come immediately. One day, they will all come,”he said as he shared his mantra to bring back the sparrows.

A lesson in persistency: Meet Dr Harish Bhat, a professor in Indian Institute of Science. When he moved into his house near Yashwantpur Railway station, reminiscing from his childhood memories of sparrows, he decided to work to bring the sparrows back to his terrace.

It was in 2003 when he began his tryst to bring back the sparrows to his home. Every day, in the morning at around 6.30 am, he leaves millets and water in a shallow bowl for the sparrows. Days and months went by but nothing happened. However, Dr Bhat wouldn't give up that easily. For three whole years, he repeated the same thing every morning.

One fine day, after those three long arduous years, two chirpy little sparrows were feeding on the millets much to the delight of Dr Bhat. Today, he is a content man. Every day morning, he is visited by over 40 sparrows on his terrace who come there to indulge on the grainy breakfast and take a gulp of clean water. Dr Harish Bhat who is a very vocal voice in the 'Bring back the Sparrow' campaign said, “We need to make some minor changes in the eco system we offer. Sparrows are extremely sensitive birds. If you have a cat in your house, the sparrows will get scared as they look at them as predators.” If one is serious about bringing sparrows back to their homes, there are a few things that they need to bear in mind. Keep the water in really shallow bowls so that they can drink. Create an inviting nest for them by keeping some hay inside it. The minor millets are really cheap. It costs only `30 something a kg, buy a bag of it and keep it in your house, added Dr Harish Bhat.

According to Bhat, one can also artificially create  crevices, ledges and vents in your balconies, verandas and terraces and put the nest  there. If you have a spacious terrace, build a titled roofed pergola and under the supporting beams put the nest. Initially, the nest might only attract squirrels or pigeons. But don't give up that easily. As a part of this campaign, in the last three years over 25,000 bamboo nests were given to people. Though the success rate is less than 5 per cent, this wildlife conservationist hopes on to make Bangalore a sparrow friendly city.

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