Small Wonder: Saving the Sparrows
The house sparrow (Passer domesticus) is perhaps one of the most common birds. Being one of the oldest companions of human beings, these birds have evolved with us over a period of time. With their ability to live so intimately with us, they have always been a part of our backyard bird watching experiences. Their nests are spotted in almost every house in the neighbourhood and they are mostly seen pecking food grains or catching tiny worms.
No other bird has been associated with humans as closely as sparrows. These inquisitive birds are found in colonies, bus stops and at every other place where humans are seen. Mentioned in folklore, a house sparrow is a bird that evokes fond memories. Many bird watchers and ornithologists recall how sparrows introduced them to the bird-watching world.
House sparrows are 5 to 6 inches in length. They are chunky and tiny with fuller chest, round head and a short tail. The male has a gray crown, whitish check, and black throat. The female has a brown crown, striped back and a plain breast with a broad buff line over the eye.
House sparrows are noisy birds that hop rather than walk on the ground. They are social and love to fly in flocks. They eat together but quarrel over crumbs or seeds on the ground. House sparrows are a common sight at bird feeders. One may spot them bathing in street-side puddles or dust bathing on open ground; ruffling their feathers and splashing water or dust over themselves.
Nesting and Feeding Habits
House sparrows have been living with humans for centuries. The nest is spherical in shape, and is made of waste materials such as straw, twigs, paper, leaves and grasses. They may perch on your fencerows and flutter down from eaves and roof to hop and peck at crumbs or seeds. Their diet includes corn, oats, wheat, and other types of grain. During spring and summer, the house sparrows may search for insects and spiders to feed nestlings. As per the 'Handbook of Texas Online', these little birds are known to eat over 830 different foods!
Many plants and animals which were previously abundant are now facing an uncertain future. Unfortunately, the house sparrow is one such bird. The slow and noticeable disappearance of sparrows is an indicator of the continuous degradation faced by the environment around us. With an aim to raise awareness of the house sparrow and other common birds, World Sparrow Day is observed on 20 March, every year.
What you can do
• Put bird boxes and bird feeders outside your house;
• Keep water-bowls or a bird-bath in summers;
• Grow plants and hedges that are native to the place.
With these small and easy steps, you can encourage the sparrows and other common birds to come back. Making the environment more eco-friendly by segregating waste and saving water will go a long way in conserving birds and making our planet a better place to live.