Flight of sparrows

A nationwide survey finds that the common house sparrow is not so common any more.

Published : Apr 17, 2013 00:00 IST

Last year the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) conducted a survey that was endearingly named Citizen Sparrow.

The survey, using inputs from amateur naturalists, was conducted online and through hard-copy questionnaires in English and eight Indian languages. It reached out to rural and urban India, with 5,730 participants contributing information on the sparrow.

Over 25 per cent of the participants were from towns and villages and the rest from large cities.

According to the findings, sparrows are seen in fewer places now than they were before 2005. Where they are still found, the numbers are lower than earlier and fewer nests are seen as well. This suggests sparrows have indeed declined, and the low number of nests could indicate a continuing decline.

Sparrow populations through the country vary according to regions. A regional comparison showed that many reports of large sparrow flocks came from north-western areas such as Gujarat. Sparrows also seem to be doing comparatively better in north-eastern areas such as Assam and central India, including Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. These regions reported greater sparrow presence than other parts of India.

Among cities, Mumbai came out on top of the sparrow charts, with many more people reporting the presence of the bird than they did from Bangalore and Chennai, where a much higher percentage of participants said the bird was not found at all in their localities. ter Mumbai. Hyderabad and Delhi were intermediate in reporting the bird’s presence.

On an average, rural areas seemed to be doing a little better, with more people reporting sparrows in towns and villages than in big cities. Moreover, there were twice as many reports of large flocks of sparrows being seen in towns and villages as in cities.

Thus, the lifestyles of people from rural and semi-urban areas seem to be more conducive to the bird’s survival. The BNHS surmised that there were certain aspects such as the type of human dwellings, eating and buying habits of people and land use that could be affecting the availability of shelter and food for the sparrow.

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