Sparrow - Where Have You Gone?

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Passeridae” popularly known as Sparrows are tiny, sensitive and strongly immune birds. Their sudden disappearance is a warning to humans about the impending environmental hazard. They have become endangered and are struggling for existence due to rapid urbanization. Sparrows are losing not just their natural habitats but also the essential human touch they need to thrive.

Sparrows have a symbiotic relationship with humans for the past 10,000 years. They were once a part of our homes and farms. They are considered to be the farmer's best friend as they feed on insects in the farmland. In the first 15 days after birth, a baby sparrow is dependent on the fresh insect larva, which it gobbles. However, in the modern era, the widespread loss of habitat and excessive use of insecticide has taken away their mode of existence. Additionally, air and water pollution has also contributed to their dwindling numbers.

Rachel Carson in her multi-award winning book, Silent Spring, published in 1962, warned the indiscriminate use of insecticides were tending to kill not only insects, but all life, including humans, directly or indirectly. There are several reasons for the disappearance of sparrows and this is not sudden but a gradual process.

  • Extensive use of pesticides and insecticides in farms and gardens is killing the bird and its primary food source: insects. Not just pesticides, but the chemicals used while storing grain, ultimately find their way into the system of a sparrow, causing them to die,
  • Sparrows are becoming homeless due to modern "matchbox styled" architecture that makes it difficult for the bird to build nests. These winged companions, who used to build nest in holes, roofs and crevices on traditional houses, are struggling to find a safe corner in glass buildings. 
  • Increase in mobile technology (towers) is among one of the main reasons for lessened number of sparrows.
  • Increased use of packaged food also attribute towards the depletion of sparrow population. In the earlier days, women used to clean grains outside their houses and sparrows would have plenty of food scattered on the floor to eat. However, today a sparrow is either starved or forced to eat leftovers from the packaged foods.
  • Excessive use of mosquito repellents indoors and insecticides outdoors also contributes towards the extinction of these little creatures.

The synergistic effect of all these is environmental pollution, which is the main reason behind the sparrows to fly away from their long-trusted habitat. Sparrows are indicators of environmental health and changes in the urban ecosystem. If we cannot save sparrows, no one else can. In a few decades, they would go extinct like the dinosaurs. We have the knowledge and potential to bring back the sparrows to their natural habitat. Few small but crucial steps could make it happen. Keeping water bowls in the terrace or balcony would help birds to rehydrate. Plants and hedges that are native to the place can be grown to create a cozy place for them. This encourages sparrows to come back. Sparrows breed four times a year, so artificial nests outside our homes can help them to have a constant and safe place for breeding and to roost.

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children. We should make sure all the natural resources, flora and fauna are retained and encouraged to grow for our future generations. Humans are the most intelligent creation of nature, and we are responsible to protect our surroundings.

On March 20, 2018, the World Sparrow Day was celebrated in countries all over the world. This event is observed to create awareness about sparrows, which are affected by environment and are on the verge of becoming extinct.

Author: Sulogna Chatterjee. DST-Inspire Fellow, Bioengineering and Environmental Sciences Lab, EEFF Centre, CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (CSIR-IICT), Hyderabad.

Posted By : ScienceIndia Administrator
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Vivek Kumar

Good helpful for us

Posted on : 12-08-2018 06:48:57