As a child I remember, waking up to the twitter of little sparrows. The modest, brown-spotted, quaint birdies, had made the need of an alarm clock virtually redundant, filling the dawn sky with their sing-a-song tweets. As a student, whenever, I heard the truism – The early bird catches the worm – in my mind’s eye emerged this little sparrow with an earthworm in her beak! The sparrow was an integral part of my childhood, and my growing years.
They were always there – sometimes incurring my mother’s wrath, as they pecked on the wheat grains that she had spread out to dry in the sun. Or making her fret with the words, “It’s a bad omen!” when the electricity meter readers harshly tugged open the metal door that encased the meter, thus causing an egg to drop down from the sparrow nest built on the encasing. We used to be very unhappy with the untimely destruction of these eggs, but mostly we were greeted by tiny chirps that boasted the arrival of spindly-legged chicks.
When I moved to Delhi, I missed the house sparrows, but was greeted by another set of natural winged-inhabitants – the pigeons. These were so different from the sparrows that I had grown up with – they were large, grey, and messy and didn’t exactly have a sweet chirp. But soon there omnipresence became a part of my life in Delhi. Pigeons were everywhere, and like the sparrows made nests on the window sill, and under the installed air-conditioners. As nature conspires to maintain the delicate ecological balance, we saw the unwarranted destruction of pigeon eggs also, and sometimes even baby pigeons. The house-cat would also be the culprit, stealthily making our domestic pigeons their prey.
In spite of getting used to having domestic pigeons as our regular visitors, my first love was reserved for the house sparrows. But this December, when I went to my hometown, the sparrows were conspicuous by their absence. The house sparrow seemed to have disappeared. When I went to Church, I was happy to catch a glimpse of a few sparrows pecking at the flower-bed. They were less in number, but the Church garden and surrounding greenery had at least given the surviving few of the species a natural habitat. It was disheartening to see that the little sparrows were becoming a prey to the expansion of the human civilization.
While I mull over the memories of my little winged friends, I came across an article on www.timesofindia.com that also asked the pertinent question – Where have all the sparrows gone? The article states facts and figures to instill public sentiments towards saving this avian species. Through this blog, I would like to endorse the suggestion given by K.L. Mathews, associate professor in Junagadh Agriculture University (JAU) who has done a thesis on sparrows for his PhD – “We can start by providing artificial nest boxes so that a sparrow can come back to roost.”
Incidentally, there was another shocking article last year on www.dnaindia.com about how Sparrows are on the menu to whet libido . It was a horrifying article on how local hakims “… have claimed to have prepared a potion from the bird’s meat which works as an aphrodisiac.” and to meet the market demands, “… the birds are trapped from various parts of the city using nylon nets.” After the matter came to light, the Volunteers of the Plant and Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) have taken up the cause to save this near extinct species.
As a reader of this blog, if you can relate to my winged memories of the endangered house sparrow, and want your children to see and hear this little birdie in real, instead of picture books, perched next to the already extinct Dodo, then do your bit to welcome a little birdie home. If not a bird house, then a water or grain trough may do the trick. Helping to expand the green cover around your house and locality and minimizing noise and air pollution can also be conducive.