At a time when the wildlife enthusiasts are working round the corner to increase wildlife population; the decline of the ubiquitous house sparrows haven’t been noticed much. The Delhi state government had adopted sparrow as its state bird in 2012 and postal stamps were also released but very little improvement has been there since then. The main reason for the rapid decline of this most common bird species is the destruction of green spaces and wetlands, global warming, pollution of water bodies, soil and the ambient environment, and the insensitiveness of the people.
The urban lifestyle of people is a common cause for dwindling population of sparrows. They build their nests in holes, crevices and windows of houses. But the new buildings with glass facades or the presence of air conditioners on the windows do not have provisions for the sparrows to build their nests. The radiation from cell phones and mobile towers is also causing a slow death of this species. The bird’s navigation and preying capability is interrupted by the electromagnetic radiation emitted from cell phones and mobile towers.
The radiation also affects their nervous system, immunity and the developing embryos. The availability of food such as grains and insects is also a cause of concern. The sparrows fed on grains from gunny bags kept in shops and unattended gowdowns but with the advent of packaged food and the supermarket concept, the sparrows are left to themselves. To add to their woes, sparrows also do not get to feed on the insects and worms found in agricultural land, gardens and farms since their numbers have also been decreasing due to the use of pesticides and insecticides. Even if they feed on them, they are exposed to the chemicals. The water kept in small containers in terraces for birds in old days are also a rare sight nowadays. The birds are thus left thirsty in peak summer when the natural water bodies also dry up.
The environmental pollution has been identified as a major health risk to humans but sadly the studies focussing on house sparrows are very few. The poor air quality of our country due to rapid urbanization and industrialisation and the ever increasing number of motor vehicles pose a major health risk to humans. But House sparrows are worst hit as they have higher respiration rate than humans and breathe higher volume of air. Thus poor air qualities affect their respiratory functions, reduce egg production and may also cause mutation (which may lead to cancer).
It is high time that we start taking steps to save our house sparrows because today its them and tomorrow it might be the turn of some other species. As species become endangered or extinct, it may start disrupting the food chain and the ecosystem at large.
- People should be encouraged to provide spaces for sparrow nesting or buy nest boxes to increase their population.
- Keep grains and open water containers in open spaces and terraces of homes
- Public awareness and sensitising people about the cause
About the Author :
Neha Agarwal is pursuing her Internship from Keep India Beautiful. She has done her MS in Environmental & Water Resources Engineering from IIT Madras and B.Tech in Biotechnology from HIT (W.B.). She is passionate about environment. She loves reading, and getting involved in arts and craft activities in her leisure time.