Before our dependency on the alarm clock, we all relied on nature. One among the many natural morning cues used to be the sound of birds chirping at dawn. One chirping bird that we are familiar with is the house sparrow.
Sparrows have had a symbiotic relationship with humans for ages, and hence, we have often seen and heard them in our surroundings. Sadly, this diminutive bird as well as other subspecies of the sparrow is now diminishing, and, in some parts of the world is on the verge of extinction.
Hence, to generate awareness about their declining numbers and their daily fight for survival, every year since 2010, March 20 has been celebrated as World Sparrow Day.
In Nepal, due to the increasing mean temperature in summer in recent years, Kanchanpur in the far west and its surrounding areas have seen a huge decline in sparrow numbers. They are on the verge of disappearing due to the excessive heat. Climate change is not the only factor. Environmental degradation due to mindless urbanisation, habitat destruction, and increasing water and soil pollution has contributed to their noticeable disappearance. Electromagnetic waves and radiation emitted by the mobile towers and phones have also interfered with the bird’s sensors and misguided them while navigating and preying.
No other bird can be found so close to humans, and sparrows thrive upon human connection. But the changing lifestyle is affecting the sparrow’s survival. In the earlier days, grains were cleaned outside the homes, and sparrows fed upon them. This is no longer the case. Not only that, especially during the growing-up phase, sparrows feed on insects, but the declining number of insects has left them with little food. Traces of pesticides in the grains are also responsible for their declining number. These birds require cavities to build their nest, but contemporary concrete houses are unsuitable for sparrows to nest and breed.
These birds are considered to be indicators of environmental health. The sparrows that were once abundant and ubiquitous are now facing an uncertain future. The noticeable disappearance and declining number of sparrows are a warning sign for the ecosystem. In order to save the sparrow population, it is important to promote the use of bio- fertilisers. There is a need to create awareness about the development of an ecosystem where they can continue to co-exist with humans as before.
A version of this article appears in print on March 23, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.