Homecoming for long lost house sparrows in Odisha

An engineer, Subrat Nath has attracted sparrows to his house by hanging earthen nests and paddy stalks at the balcony.
For representational purposes
For representational purposes

SAMBALPUR: AMID a series of tall concrete houses, Subrat Nath’s house in Sambalpur stands out. Because his green balcony is home to many sparrows which is a rarity in other parts of the fast-growing town.

An engineer by profession and nature lover by passion, Subrat has managed to bring the birds back by putting up earthen nests and hanging paddy stalks on his balcony. Today, he is also gifting sparrow nests to locals to encourage community-level sparrow conservation.

His drive to create a suitable ecosystem for the little birds began two years back when he was attending a public discussion on the issue. “I realised at this discussion that we rarely see sparrows today whereas the birds were very common during our childhood,” he said.  He designed an earthen nest and got it made by a local potter.

Only after three weeks of putting up the nest in the balcony, he saw a sparrow in it. “It was a male sparrow. The male sparrow usually comes to ascertain whether a place is safe for their nesting, to check if food and water are available and if there is any possible threat,” he said. In the next month, a group of sparrows started flocking to his balcony.

Thrilled to find the birds in his house, Subrat began researching on ways to improve the ecosystem for the winged guests. Soon, sparrows began breeding in the nests that he installed. This is when he decided to take up sparrow conservation in a mission mode and began gifting earthen bird nests to people around him. He documented his sparrow journey and posted photographs of the birds on his social media profiles. When local people started seeing his photographs, they reached out to him for the earthen nests.

“I only give these nests to nature lovers who are genuinely interested in taking care of the birds. I visit their houses to identify suitable places for the nests and give them the necessary tips to maintain it. I even get calls from people in other parts of Odisha as well as states like Maharashtra and Karnataka, but it is hard to ship these earthen nests,” he said.

At present, Subrat has installed 15 nests at his home and in this season, birds have bred thrice in the nests. He has so far gifted around 100 nests to people. Subrat said although people are attributing the decline in the sparrow population to the installation of mobile towers, that isn’t the case. “In fact, the high mortality rate of sparrow hatchlings has led to their population decline. Sparrows usually feed worms and other similar organisms to their babies. But due to concrete structures, they do not get these worms in the urban areas,” he reasons.

Similarly, due to excessive use of pesticides and insecticides, they are not finding worms to feed them in rural areas. “To ensure food for the newborn, I have made sure to reduce concrete structures around their nesting areas and put up more plants for infestation of worms.  It is more about awareness. Sparrows are usually quick to adapt to changes. We just have to make the surroundings safe and habitable for them,” added Subrat who is passionate about wildlife photography, is a horticulturist and also an RJ  with All India Radio.

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