HOUSE SPARROWS WANT OLD HOMES
In a 2008 Current Science article ornithologist Ranjit Daniels suggested several reasons for the decline of house sparrow populations in India. Daniels suggested studies similar to those on declining amphibian populations. He also suggested house sparrows were more likely to be conserved in agricultural and hilly landscapes rather than cities. Urban areas do not have space for the house sparrows and they are also home to a host of predators.
Daniels’ paper sparked media interest in the house sparrow. Several newspapers rang alarm bells over the decline of the bird in urban areas. The decline, I believe, is not just an urban phenomenon.
House sparrows are on the fall in rural areas as well. And the problems are similar. There aren’t enough nesting sites or food sources for the birds.
Let me cite the example from the Western Ghat region. Earlier houses in villages usually had an open verandah. The roofs held up by wooden or bamboo poles had thatches. Photographs lined walls on the edges of the verandah. The pictorial pantheon of ancestors, gods and freedom fighters was ideal nesting place for the house sparrows. The birds built their nests behind the photo frames and in the crevices of beams or thatches.
The houses were surrounded by paddy fields and vegetable fields. The sparrows would feed on grains and insects from the fields. Weeds, shrubs and bushes provided an ideal environment. The sparrows could also feed on grains from the local grocery shops. (Contd…2)