March 20 is World Sparrow Day. Here are some ideas to help you do your bit for the little bird.

The common house sparrow is one of the most ubiquitous birds around us and is one of the more familiar winged companions of human beings. It has, over a period of time, evolved with us.

At one time a very common sight, in the past few years, this bird has been on the decline over much of its natural range, both in the urban and rural habitats. The decline of the house sparrow is an indicator of the continuous degradation of the environment.

The house sparrow is, in a sense, an ambassador to the common bird species. The hope is that the conservation of the house sparrow and its habitat will in turn help save much of the common biodiversity, which shares the habitat of the house sparrows.

Conservation

World Sparrow Day is celebrated on March 20. The rationale for celebrating World Sparrow Day is not only to commemorate the event for a day, but also to use it as a platform to highlight the need to conserve sparrows as well as urban biodiversity. The event aims to bring together individuals, national and international groups. The aim is also to attract the attention of government agencies and the scientific community to take notice of the need for the conservation of the common bird species and urban biodiversity.

Scientists first started to notice a decline in the number of the house sparrow in the 1990s. Over the last few years several campaigns, outreach and awareness programmes, research surveys have been carried out to understand the decline of a species that had learned to exist in and around human habitations and was found in huge numbers in urban areas.

World wide, countries have participated in various activities to celebrate the World House Sparrow Day. Citizen Sparrow is an ongoing citizen science project in India in which members of the public are encouraged to contribute information on presence and absence of the house sparrow from different locations and for different time periods. This information is to be uploaded on their website (www.citizensparrow.in/). All the observational records are plotted on a map. This can be done by an individual or a school group or an NGO and even corporate companies as a part of their corporate social responsibility.

What others have done

Students from Women’s College, Patna, distributed handbills to the public and scattered millets for sparrows.

People in Bristol recorded house sparrow sightings and blogged about it.

In 2012, the Chief Minister, Ms. Sheila Dikshit, declared the house sparrow the state bird of Delhi. Addressing school children at her residence during a function organised to celebrate Wildlife Week, Ms. Dikshit said that the idea behind making the house sparrow the State bird was to protect it.

The Nature Forever Society in association with the Burhani Foundation (India) started ‘SOS’ (Save Our Sparrow), an initiative in which they distributed 52,000 bird feeders across the world on a non-profit basis.

The Indian Postal Department released a stamp of the house sparrow along with the rock pigeon on March 20, 2010.

What you can do

Put bird boxes and bird feeders outside your house or in your gardens.

Water-bowls or a bird-bath in the hot summer afternoon helps birds to re-hydrate.

Grow plants and hedges that are native to the place. This encourages some of the common birds to come back.

At Madras Crocodile Bank Trust

Outreach Programmes in schools and at the Croc Bank.

Common Bird Monitoring Programme: Nature Forever Society has initiated a common bird monitoring programme to conserve India’s common birds.

Talks will be done on weekends for the visitors that come to MCBT to create awareness about the sparrow.

A questionnaire survey that involves interviewing citizens about house sparrows to document the current population of this once common bird in their gardens and backyards.