Gone are the days when sparrows were common visitors to our homes, nesting in some nook and cranny or chirping noisily at a window. World Sparrow Day, celebrated on March 20, is a part of a worldwide project to understand why the birds are declining in number.
In Mumbai, a group called Nature Forever Society (NFS) held a photographic exhibition titled ‘The Sparrows of The World’ at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly Prince of Wales museum) on Tuesday to mark the event.
Mohammed Dilawar, founder, NFS, and initiator of World Sparrow Day, described how architects in the United Kingdom were tweaking building designs to create nesting sites for the little birds. “The technique is called missing brick, where one or two bricks are removed or a particular empty space is left in houses and buildings, which become nesting sites for sparrows.”
Earlier, sparrows used to take shelter in open ventilators next to bathrooms or in loft areas next to windows. Environmentalist Biju Augustein said, “Due to modern construction there is no space left for these birds. Either their nests are exposed to the sun or they inhale toxic pesticides used to kill household pests.”
In Mumbai, the growing number of buildings with glass facades is reducing nesting sites. “Firstly, the habitat of sparrows has been taken over by pigeons in majority of the areas around Mumbai since sparrows are too small to compete. Secondly, bird nets that have been installed by housing societies make it hard for these birds to enter,” said Stalin D, another environmentalist.
A Common Bird Monitoring for India study by NFS found that crows formed 30% of the common bird numbers, pigeons 25% and sparrows 20%. Parrots and mynahs were the other birds that figured in the study. The study, which began in 2011, has estimated that the sparrow population could be increasing at a very slow pace, mostly in rural areas.
“Saving the sparrow habitat is of prime importance as common birds like pigeons or crows adapt to urban spaces easily. Sparrows form the basis of our ecosystem, you save a sparrow, you save a city,” said Dilawar.