50 city localities still visited by elusive bird, study finds
The once-ubiquitous house sparrow we took for granted until its population noticeably nosedived in the city appears to still thrive in little pockets, however isolated. As many as 50 residential areas in Bangalore see regular visits from the diminutive bird, scientists and bird enthusiasts were happily surprised to find when they tallied results of a five-year project to map sparrow sightings in the city.
Areas with a dense housing topology, low-income localities and markets appeared to be the bird's favourite haunts. Tilak Nagar, Sudhamanagar, Gandhi Bazaar and K.R. Market for instance retain an urban ecology suitable for sparrows, with niches to nest in and grain to feed on, said H.S. Sudhira of Gubbi Labs, a research collective, who coordinated the project.
And while sparrows may have all but vanished from newly developed areas and concrete wastelands, there are two exceptions — Bengaluru International Airport and the BDA Complex in HSR Layout — where the common sparrow is still inexplicably seen, scavenging on food as unconventional as leftover puff pastry and samosa filling.
Starting 2007, birders, both amateurs and professionals, set out to plot on a map every sighting of this increasingly elusive species. This exercise was made possible through volunteer geographic information collected through forums such as mailing groups, Dr. Sudhira said. The other areas where sparrows were spotted are Vidyapeetha main road, Yediyur, Malleswaram, Varthur and Bellandur.
However, the fact that a species that was once everywhere is now found to be restricted to 50 localities, is not particularly heartening news, says naturalist Harish Bhat. “Sparrows are very adaptable creatures so their disappearance reflects an unprecedented habitat loss, especially of shrubs and crevices like tiled roofs that they can nest in.”
In fact so adaptable are sparrows he has even spotted them drink cola and coffee at the airport. “The kitchen garden concept no longer exists and pesticides have wiped out insects and caterpillars that would have been the protein sources for sparrows,” added Dr. Bhat who has managed to lure 36 sparrows to his Yeshwanthpur home with offerings of minor millets and water.