Vaagai Foundation distributes bamboo nests around the city to bring back birds that have been dwindling in numbers

The house sparrows that once chirruped around in large numbers are now spotted rarely. “Blame it on high-rise buildings, lack of greenery, and radiation from the increasing number of cell phone towers. Development has shooed the little birds away from our neighbourhood,” says M. Sanjai Gandhi, chairman of Vaagai Foundation. It spreads awareness on rainwater harvesting, and environment conservation.

The Foundation is trying to bring many birds back. It has placed bamboo nests at various locations in the city, especially where there is greenery, to attract the birds. One of its first stops has been at the Coimbatore Zoo. More than 10 bamboo nests have been placed for the love birds to nest and breed. “As there are no trees, birds have no space to build nests. We want to encourage people to place the bamboo nests at their homes too,” says Sanjai. The small bamboo nests, they say, provides a comfortable nesting ground for a number of birds such as the finches, munias, babblers, and bee eaters. The nests can be kept on terraces, windows and compound walls.

Members of the foundation also plan to distribute open nests to attract crows and mynas. “We want to make nests for the thookanam kuruvi too from coir and coconut husks, and place them on trees in our neighbourhood,” he adds. Besides Ramanathapuram, Ramnagar and Gandhipuram in Coimbatore, the bamboo nests have made their way to places as far as Chennai, Kodaikanal and Dindigul.

“There was a time when there were sparrows in their hundreds. They would chirrup at the break of dawn, and it was our wake-up alarm,” remembers. S.R. Azhagappan, secretary of Vaagai Foundation.

N.I Jalaluddin, president of The Nature Conservation Society (NCS) says, “In the last five years, seven thousand trees have been felled in the Coimbatore city to give way for buildings. Where do the birds go for nesting and to feed? He asks. NCS conducts nature camps, treks and educational programmes to spread awareness in conservation. “We don’t see jungle crows anymore in the city. Wetlands in Coimbatore are a hot spot for migratory birds. But, the water contamination and environmental changes is affecting the numbers,” he adds.

Pollution is another deterrent to the birds. “After the fire broke out at the Vellalore dump yard, it’s been over a month since any bird has been spotted in that stretch,” says Azhagappan. This has been attributed to the contamination of air with pollutants like sulphur components.

There’s a shortage of feed too as agricultural lands have been replaced with buildings. “Such changes affect the breeding efficiency of the birds which results in a fall in their numbers,” says Coimbatore Zoo director, K. Asokan.

Sparrows in Gandhipuram

But, there is hope yet. Jalaluddin cites the example of a commercial shop owner in Gandhipuram. “He keeps aside five kilos of grains for the birds. Hundreds of sparrows now flock to the shop for grains and water.”

Vaagai Foundation has been on the job for three months. Soon, it plans to rope in organisations like NCS to take its mission to more people. “We have started distributing the bamboo nests on an experimental basis. This would help us in studying the birds too. We have sometimes observed birds keeping away from these nests, as they probably suspect it to be a trap. It takes while for them to enter and start nesting,” says Sanjai. To know more, check the Vaagai Foundation India on Facebook or visit www.vaagai.org

You can also call 98428-77208 to get a bamboo nest for your house. It is free.