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(ARCHIVE) VOL. XXII No. 13, October 16-31, 2012
Steps to bring back the House Sparrows

Spare a thought for the House Sparrow...

The House Sparrow, Passer domesticus Indicus, is a small finch-like songbird from the family Polceidae, to which the Weaverbirds and Munias also belong. Once widespread all over India, the house sparrow has now become relatively rare to spot. The reasons are a combination of dwindling food sources, loss of nesting sites, indiscriminate use of agricultural chemicals, and proliferation of phone towers. The following will make this clear.

  • The eaves of tiled-roof houses, room ventilators and cups of ceiling fans used to be greatly favoured by sparrows for nesting in. Modern housing design has removed these breeding facilities, leaving the birds with hardly any nesting sites.
  • Draught animals' dung on the roads was a breeding ground for food insects which the sparrows fed upon. These animals are now used more and more sparingly, reducing the numbers of dung-bred insects for sparrows (which do eat insects, although they are principally grain-eaters).
  • Planting of exotic avenue trees and plants do not support the populations of many insect species and this has further decimated sparrow food availability.
  • Before the advent of plastic packaging, the sparrows enjoyed a banquet of grain and other foodstuffs that spilled onto the road and the wayside during transit. Plastic and other packaging has put an end to this spillage – and the sparrow's banquet.
  • The race to produce more has led to indiscriminate use by farmers of agricultural chemicals which introduce poisons into the food chain. This leads to accumulation of lethal doses of these chemicals being ingested by sparrows (and other birds).
  • The much-used mobile phone has adversely affected sparrows and other birds due to the dangerous radio waves emitted by phone-towers. These waves are, incidentally, also dangerous to other living organisms, including us human beings.
  • Accumulated garbage in human settlements provides food resources for small predators which proliferate as a result. Their consequent increased activities threaten the existence of sparrows and other small wildlife.

You can help the sparrow in several ways:

  1. Provide nest boxes and feeders.
  2. Set out bathing and watering trays for sparrows and other birds.
  3. Campaign or advocate the use of less (preferably, no) chemicals in gardens and households.
  4. Plant hedges and shrubs which support nesting.
  5. Monitor the nest boxes for colonising by sparrows and document their activity using student volunteers from schools and colleges.
  6. Locate active breeding sites and convince householders there to allow and undertake conservation measures.
  7. Identify natural threats like cats, squirrels, crows and hawks and provide measures to discourage them.
  8. Interact with builders, masons and carpenters to provide space in new constructions for sparrows' nests.
  9. Make space for the sparrow in your life and surroundings to make the world a better place for all.

Remember, the web of life on earth embraces all living forms. If even one form is eliminated, the adverse effects are felt in the entire system.

This hand-out was prepared and circulated by the Madras Naturalists' Society at a joint meeting the Society recently held with the Freemasons through Mount Lodge No.14 to launch a 'Save the Sparrow and Classification of Trees Project'. The Project has been taken up by the Mount Lodge as a part of its 150th year celebrations.

Dr. R. Bhanumathi, Executive Committee Member, MNS, spoke on the importance of sparrows, their decline in population in Chennai, and the need for conservation. Dr. T. Murugavel, Life Member, MNS, spoke about the lack of research in India on sparrows and the need to undertake activities that may lead to an increase of sparrow population. As part of the classification of trees project, Prof. Uday Kumar, Botany Department, Pachaiyappa's College, highlighted the tree species in the vast Freemasons Hall campus.

The function concluded with the distribution of bird feeders and nesting boxes and the placing of these units in different locations in the campus. Neem tree saplings were also planted in the campus. – (Courtesy: MNS Bulletin)

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In this Issue

Why so much secrecy?
Need supervised renovation, NOT demolition
"Let's bury 'road in-the-sky' and save the Cooum River"
The creation of a Chennai landmark
Following the trail of Vere Levinge
A merchant remembers...
Opportunity beckons in Rock Fort City
Madras chunam and other finds
That first Ranji triumph
Steps to bring back the House Sparrows

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your diary


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