An increasing number of apartment dwellers are taking to nurturing house sparrows in their balconies

How do you like waking up to the chirping of sparrows from the balcony of your 17th floor apartment in Mumbai? Or even better, a peacock making a surprise visit to your home in New Delhi attracted by a feeder meant for sparrows?

Proving sceptics wrong, an increasing number of ‘apartment people’ across cities in India are taking to nurturing house sparrows in their balconies turning the otherwise bald, bird-less urban landscape into an oasis of winged visitors. Like green warriors, they are becoming saviours of house sparrows whose population has been dwindling of late, owing to destruction of their habitat.

“These are our passionate groups of sparrow supporters and you will find them not only in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi but in smaller towns and cities as well. All we did was to motivate them to adopt nest boxes and bird feeders and now their homes have been transformed into virtual sanctuaries and the regular visitors include not just house sparrows but parakeets, mynas and even peacocks,” says Mohammed Dilawar of Nature Forever Society (NFS).

The Society has been distributing hundreds of these nest boxes and bird feeders to people in cities for the last eight years now and the results have been remarkable. Sparrows edged out of an unfriendly urban environment bereft of perches and trees were returning in droves bringing with them their bigger cousins.

He was not off the mark. Ninjit Taneja of New Delhi says: “I have put up bird feeders in the balcony and waited patiently for about 8 months. It started from two sparrows and now ten of them visit at a time. Suddenly, my little balcony has become a haven not just for sparrows but mynas, bulbuls and doves. I realized how each one of us can make a difference in bringing back the sparrows.”

Living on the 17th floor of a high-rise building in Mumbai, when Radhika Chopra wanted to try the same, she was given an outside chance. “I was told small birds do not fly so high. Proving them wrong, sparrows and mynas started visiting, of course, after surveying the area several times. Mynas have even started nesting. My childhood memories came rushing back when sparrows were common.” Having nurtured the sparrows too well, some even face a dilemma. Rama Devi of Hyderabad has been creating space for sparrows for seven years now, resulting in their number increasing to about 100. But her family is now keen on shifting to a new apartment. “I am not worried whether sparrows will visit me in the next home, but concerned about the ones I am leaving behind.”

Such is the emotional attachment of the bird lovers. “With such committed ambassadors of birds around, I am sure we will be able to reverse the trend at least in some pockets of each city,” Mr. Dilawar added.

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