Bombay Natural History Society ropes in citizens for online survey
In an effort to document the population and distribution of sparrows and compare it with the situation in the past, nature and conservation organisations across the country have joined efforts with the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) to launch an online survey titled “citizen sparrow”.
“The decline of the house sparrow has been noticed both by experts as well as by the public. Although it is among the most widely-distributed birds in the world, its numbers in many places have dropped sharply in the last several decades. Anyone with past or present information about house sparrows is encouraged to participate. An interesting aspect of this survey is that it even seeks information about the absence of sparrows. Because sparrows live side by side with people, the lack of sparrows in any place is of particular interest,” said head of Important Bird Areas Programme of BNHS and Indian Bird Conservation Network, Dr. Raju Kasambe.
He said there is an urgent need to understand the status of our commonest bird, the ubiquitous house sparrow.
“Only a citizen science programme with mass participation can help in collecting information about it on a pan-India scale,” said Dr. Kasambe.
Explaining why the survey involves ordinary citizens rather than experts alone, Dr. Suhel Quader of the Nature Conservation Foundation said: “Almost everyone knows about house sparrows, so there is a vast store of information available with citizens all across the country. We are trying to document this store of information. In addition, we see this as a way to reach out to people from all walks of life -- asking them to share their stories and their understanding about these birds.”
Participants in the survey are asked to mark locations on a map and give simple information about their sparrow sightings from those locations, including sightings from past years and decades. With such information it is possible to compare population changes of sparrows in different places, and this is expected to point to particular threats or problems. Findings from the project are intended to feed more detailed studies investigating causes of decline, and potential measures for the recovery of sparrow populations.
The public involvement approach has other important benefits as well, points out BNHS director Dr. Asad Rahmani. “We are trying to generate good information on all-India level on the house sparrow and involve citizens to make them more interested and concerned on conservation issues. The house sparrow can become an example of the conservation problems faced by other species,” he said.
The project was launched on April 1 and will run for two months before closing. All information collected through the project will remain in the public domain for anyone to access and use. For more information, people could also contact firstname.lastname@example.org or use the website http://www.citizensparrow.in