When was the last time you saw a sparrow at home? If you were to ask your parents or grandparents they would tell you how common it was to find a sparrow nesting inside their homes. So, what has brought about this change?

Dull, dreary and drab yet cheekily cheerful, this diminutive bird the House Sparrow which has been a close companion of humans for centuries, is fast disappearing.

Recently scientists, environmentalists, naturalists and bird watchers around the globe woke up to the fact that these little birds are not as many as before. Alarm bells started to ring as absence of a species meant that things were not healthy. Investigative teams immediately were formed to explore the reasons why the house sparrows were fewer in number. People were shocked to find out that it is we, humans, who were responsible for the disappearance of these birds.

The heavy use of pesticides, chemicals and fertilizer in agriculture, killed the worms and insects that the sparrow chicks fed on. Devoid of nourishing food, the chicks could not attain maturity Another reason is that our lifestyle has changed so much that it kept the sparrows from living closely with people.

As the name suggests, house sparrows — (Passer domesticus) lived near human habitation and were known not to live in forests, grasslands or any other natural habitation.

No more room

In the past, houses had many nooks and crannies and the sparrows found it convenient to build their nests there.

Mrs. Anuradha Shanthamohan who lives in Chennai, fondly recalls a family of sparrows living behind the wedding photograph of her parents that hung from a old nail in her sitting room. But now, there are no such comfortable places for sparrows to make a home.

As far as grain goes, cities no longer have a place for the grocery shops. Instead, grain is mechanically cleaned and packed in shiny polythene bags and sold in supermarkets. But once upon a time, grain harvested in the fields were cleaned in the courtyards of homes and provision shops and the chaff was thrown to the birds. The little sparrows then flocked to a huge banquet. Some research show that the vibrations from the towers of cell phones could affect the eggs of the birds.

Such days diminished and the house sparrows were left on their own to fend for themselves. As their lives depended on the helping hand of humans who were the cause of their downfall, it looked as if there was no way for them to survive.

But all hope was not lost. In the 2010s several organisations came together to create an awareness and to conserve not only the House Sparrow but also the many common birds.

One of the initiatives was the celebration of World Sparrow Day, all over the world. This year it will be celebrated on March 20.

Make a difference

- Scatter a grain in a flat dish and keep a clean pan of water everyday in your garden, verandah or open space.

- Learn to make bird feeders that you can use at home and school.

- Talk to friends at home and school about this and create awareness.

- Form a Sparrow club in school — but don’t forget there are other little birds in your locality too.

For the sparrow

- Remember a little help can go a long way. Here’s an interesting website that will give you an idea of what you can do. See what you can do to help the birds.

- Join hands with the Common Bird Monitoring of India and put up posters in your school. You can monitor the birds in and around your residence and school. You could also have a lot of fun by hosting a WSD party and have a fancy dress competition, get sparrow tattoos or go on a sparrow walk.