World Sparrow Day 2016: Rise for the Sparrow
Did you know that March 20th is World Sparrow Day?
One of the most common birds in Indian cities, sparrows are a familiar sight in our cities and the Nature Forever Society in India wanted to organise an event to celebrate the beauty of urban biodiversity.
As their website says,
“The idea was to earmark a day for the House Sparrow to convey the message of conservation of the House Sparrow and other common birds and also mark a day of celebration to appreciate the beauty of the common biodiversity which we take so much for granted.”
On World Sparrow Day, we look at 5 sparrow facts you may not have known:
1. There are over 140 species of sparrows spread out over every continent except Antarctica.
While they’re native to Europe, Asia and North Africa, sparrows have now migrated to the other continents as well. By some estimates, sparrows are possibly the most commonly found urban bird globally.
2. We all know sparrows as small birds, about the size of a tennis ball.
However, they can range in size from just 4 inches high (like the African Chestnut Sparrow) to 7 inches high (like the African Parrot-Billed Sparrow)
3. Sparrows are omnivorous birds which means that their diet has an astonishing diversity.
These birds are known to eat everything from nuts, berries, fruits and insects.
4. While sparrows have generally been widespread, recent alarming trends have caused many to fear a decline in urban sparrow populations.
There are many reasons for these – modern house designs don’t have as many nooks and crannies for the birds to rest, and the birds are affected by pollution, urban tree felling and pesticides. This is disturbing – sparrows are considered to be ecological indicators or “sentinel species” whose health can be a sign of the health of an ecosystem as a whole.
5. Did you know that the house sparrow is the state bird for Delhi?
Alarmed at the sudden plunge in sparrow numbers, in 2012 the government of Delhi chose the sparrow as its state bird. The then Chief Minister had said that “we will take steps to ensure that the sparrow returns, feels safe, and is able to live peacefully in the city”. Unfortunately, it’s still an open question as to whether sparrow numbers have indeed rebounded in the capital.
The Feathered Companions
Sparrows have been a constant companion on our urban journey and have been associated with human settlements for around 10,000 years and it would be strange to imagine a city without these feathered companions.
It’s possible to try and increase the presence of sparrows by planting the right kinds of trees, putting up nesting boxes, containers with water for the birds to drink and bathe, and grain feeders. So, on this World Sparrows Day, do take a moment to see if you can do something towards making sure that the sparrows can thrive in our cities.
(Shalini Iyengar is a lawyer and Research Associate at the International University College, Turin.)
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