Are sparrows really dwindling in numbers?

Researchers say the birds are not seen in cities but are thriving across the country

Is the house sparrow really vanishing from our skies? Researchers say that though its sightings may have come down in our cities, their real numbers have not.

According to the State of India’s Birds 2020, the house sparrow (Passer domesticus) is considered a species as one with a very large distribution range. Though it is marked as ‘Least concern’ as per the Global Red List, its presence has a direct bearing on our fragile ecology, say researchers.

The ‘World Sparrow Day’ is observed on March 20 every year to raise awareness on the house sparrow, which is majorly considered as a domestic bird.

With rapid urbanisation resulting in a shrunken habitat, the number of sparrows is falling in towns and cities. Fields and crops are nowhere to be seen near towns today, which is a factor.

“Sparrows are insectivores, but they also thrive majorly on grains. As the food chain comprising paddy fields, godowns and rice mills vanished from urban spaces, so have the birds,” observes Rajasekhar Bandi, Citizen Science Coordinator at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Tirupati.

Though mobile tower radiation is also widely cited as a reason for their reduced sighting, there is no proven evidence linking the same. There is reason to believe that the birds have vanished from urban areas, but their numbers have largely remained unchanged pan-India, as cities form a minuscule percentage of the nation’s land area, points out Dr. Rajasekhar.

Meanwhile, the Forest Department is conducting painting, poster making, essay writing and elocution competitions for schoolchildren at the Sri Venkateswara Zoological Park on Saturday, marking the occasion.

“We have to inculcate in the young minds that every organism has a right to live on the planet and a role to play in the ecosystem,” says zoo curator Hima Sailaja. A ‘Bird watch’ will be conducted for the interested children on Saturday evening, where she expects that at least 30 of the 150 birds dwelling in the Seshachalam biosphere reserve can be sighted.


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