S is for the Sparrow

S is for the Sparrow

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As kids we lived in the crowded old city area. Despite the closely packed houses, we were used to waking up to the sound of chirping of birds. In the middle of our house was a courtyard with a Madhumalati creeper that reached up to the terrace. The tree was home to scores of sparrows.

To my extreme regret we never truly cherished those tiny cheerful chirpy beings. We would climb up to the terrace to look at their nests and we’d watch the babies learn to fly. We’d watch them fight (oh they were noisy) and cuddle and hop around fearlessly. Yet, they were so much a part of our lives they were barely a reason for much excitement.

By the 90s I’d moved out of my hometown but the sparrows remained a part of my life. I remember a friend came visiting form Chennai and was amazed to see them in our tiny balcony. ‘Look sparrows,’ she remarked awed. And I thought, ‘Yeah sparrows’, so big deal.

And then, I don’t know exactly when, I stopped seeing them around. Isn’t it strange how, over the years, we completely forget things that were once so much a part of our lives? Here in my new city we see more pigeons and mynas.. strutting, nesting, messy, aggressive and intrusive. (However, I’m not sure I wouldn’t miss them if I ever move away.) 

Last year (2012) I came across the Citizen Sparrow project launched by the Bombay Natural  History Society. The project invited citizens from all over India to document the presence or absence of sparrows in their area. The findings reported a decline in the sparrow population all over the country. To know more about the project click here. Worse still Google tells me the bird is disappearing all over the world, significantly in Britain and across Europe.

If you’re wondering why we should do our bit to save the sparrow read this excerpt from an interview I found at Rediff…

‘Mao Zedong blamed rats, flies, mosquitoes and sparrows for the failure of the 1957 grain harvest.
Mao ordered the massacre of 1.96 billion sparrows between March and November 1958, despite the objection of experts that sparrows were in fact the major defence of the grain fields against insects.
The killing culminated on December 13, 1958, when Shanghai residents reportedly destroyed 194,432 sparrows.
Like the sparrow extermination order issued by a Prussian ruler in the late 18th century, Mao’s sparrow-killing campaign had two serious consequences. First, insects destroyed more of the grain harvest than ever in 1959. Second, a generation of the Chinese youth internalised violence against the weak and defenceless as an acceptable behaviour in the name of serving the interest of “the people.”
The policy-induced famine of 1960-1962 killed 40 million Chinese.’
I didn’t contribute to the project, however I did start noticing and looking out for the birds. Isn’t it a wonder how they seem to actually like being around us humans, yet in such a non-aggressive way? Each morning when I’m wheeling out my scooter their happy exuberance makes me smile and I’m grateful for their cheery presence.

If you would like to do your bit and adopt a sparrow nest box click here.

Picture Courtesy: Pixabay

Linking to ABC Wednesday

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14 Replies to “S is for the Sparrow”

  1. Momofrs: how very sad is that. We do get to see some .. Only in the mornings though. And it truly is a cheering sight. 😀 about the pigeons.. I know your story.

    Jairam: yeah.. It's sad. Some cities are worse than the others.

  2. When I was younger I used to see sparrows without fail all the time in Bangalore, but now it has been around 10 odd yrs since I have seen one at all. Wonder where they've all gone.

    And that Chairman Mao story, that is good information, hadn't heard that story at all.

  3. I was tracking a pair of sparrows that lived in our society's parking area. They were the only two sparrows I got to see in Pune in the last 15 years!!
    Unfortunately, the birds disappeared one day, apparently, some cats got to them 🙁

    And I H-A-T-E pigeons! There are just too many around my place for comfort 🙁

  4. Thank you for this informative post. I didn't know that there were so many sparrows killed in China in the fifties.
    The sparrow is a very common bird here in my country. For some reason we don't see them so much around now. We think that our houses are built in such a way that sparrows cannot nest as easily as they are used to do under the tiles of our roofs. The houses are better insulated, so that we don't lose much energy in winter. Little by little they return. In summer sparrows get on my garden table when I have coffee in my garden.
    I like posts like yours with extra information!
    Wil, ABCW Team.

  5. I hear sparrows chirping in the tree outside my bedroom window in the spring and summer. It's fun to watch them eat from the bird feeder we put out for them and the chickadees. Other types of birds come, too. We even had a sparrow build a nest on the narrow ledge of our house one year and although it was very messy once the babies were born, we didn't mind. It was a great educational experience for my kids.

    abcw team

  6. In my younger days there were dozens of sparrows in my house everywhere building nests even on the octogonal grandfather's clock.They have become extinctly.Strangely I could see them in Delhi till a few years back.I have no idea.Must be the prinicple of survival of fittest at work here.Tigers would also soon be extinct

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