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Sunday, March 20, 2011

World Sparrow Day

Today is World Sparrow Day.

Sparrows were part of my childhood. They would fearlessly land on our terrace and pick at the grain dried by my mother. Their cheeping would be a background music to all our activities.

The sparrows have disappeared from our lives. The number of common house sparrow in existence today is unknown. The changes in their natural habitats has depleted their numbers. A family of sparrows built their nest in my son’s apartment on the 13th floor. There was a sunshade above a tiny balcony that was enclosed with a steel grill. They had made a nest in a narrow space above the grill and the flat above. My granddaughter’s mornings and the milk drinking ritual was accomplished with the help of these sparrows and the parrots that would shriek and flit around.

The common house sparrow’s disappearance is a universal phenomenon. In London there was a huge hue and cry a few years ago when the population of sparrows fell drastically to about 85%. In India it is just sporadically reported and has not ruffled any feathers other than amongst the scientists and naturalists.
One reason maybe the size of these little birds. Tigers and peacocks, turtles and deer are more exotic. Sparrows are small fry after all.Their ubiquitous presence was taken for granted.

One of the reasons for their depletion seems to be the introduction of unleaded petrol. Denis Summers-Smith, expert on sparrows says that the unleaded petrol uses Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) as an anti-knocking agent which kills small insects. Adult sparrows can survive without insects in their diet but they need the Grain was easily available with women cleaning, drying and scattering grain in their terraces and backyards. Store houses and godowns had lots of grain scattered around. With apartments this habit is gone and supermarket packets of food stuffs need no drying.

The sparrow also featured in stories and poems told to kids. Today Dora and Scooby Doo and Pokemon are more familiar figures than sparrows. Today the sight of a sparrow is rare and a child may not even recognize it.


  1. We always strew some bird seeds every morning in our garden for the sparrows and pigeons. We had to stop because the birds were simply not eating the seeds. We subsequently discovered that a family of cats residing in our neighbourhood had been feasting on the birds. They do not visit us any more and we are very sad.

  2. No sparrows here but we have a maddening number of crows and gackles. I too recall sparrows from my childhood in Colorado and California but none as pretty as the image you posted.

  3. I don't get half the species of birds these days. The tiny tit family appear at times, and Magpies and pigeons. I am plagued with other peoples cats using my garden as a motorway service station to relieve themselves and kill my plants.

  4. Hello Padmum,

    Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving your comment. I look forward to many many more-praises and criticisms alike.

    I've read your posts on Facebook and this is the first time I'm reading your blog. Ramana Sir has often mentioned you in his posts.

    This post reminds me of how excited I'd get as a kid, to see that little 'kuruvi' build its house on an abandoned window sill. I must say, I miss seeing those tiny birds around.

  5. Hi Padmini - I'm over here via Ramana's blog.

    Whoever is it who decides on these World-whatever days? Not to knock it, but I talked to our sparrows (house, not to be confused with tree or hedge or garage) and they said the day didn't feel any different to them from any other day. Get up at the crack of dawn, stretch wings, fly, cheep (a lot, they're a very talkative crowd), have breakfast, poo, cheep, fly, poo, have lunch, preen, cheep, sit, chatter, argue, have tea, poo, fly, peck other birds, have dinner, chatter, poo, fly, wing over head, sleep. It's a busy life.

    The thing is, we've got a lot of house sparrows here. Lots and lots. More than I've seen in years anywhere else. In London there weren't many, but here in Wales where we live there are lots. And do you know, I think it's because we feed them. We feed them mixed seed, mealworms (dried), bread, and suet. They love it and they multiply their numbers and they return.

    So, this idea that their decline is to blame for this and for that, may be correct, but then why are they on the increase here? Is it just our love and caring for them? And if it is, does that mean that others are neglecting them?

    Val (aka Absurd Old Bird, and now you know why!)

  6. Indeed can't forget the childhood memories when a group of sparrows of around 20-30 would come flying from nowhere start chattering intermittently for a few seconds and again get lost into nowhere. They are so hard to spot one these days.

  7. the sparrows also comes in our house daily and i give them lot of things to eat and you can,t imagine that they will came close to me even in my feets also.

  8. A couple of weeks ago while walking my dog, I was delighted to see a butterfly.

    Butterflies were frequently spotted when I was a child. Now, it unusual to spot them, just like the sparrows. Sad.