‘The birds are seen in fewer places than they were before 2005’

Among all major Indian cities, Chennai and Bangalore have the least number of spots for sparrow sightings, according to a survey conducted recently by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS). Surprisingly, Mumbai has the largest number of spots.

Birds being the clear indicators of the state of environment, the BNHS conducted a survey in 2012, with support from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, and in association with the National Centre for Biological Sciences, the Nature Conservation Foundation and dozens of other partner organisations.

The results of the survey, ‘Citizen Sparrow,’ allows for a closer evaluation of the widespread impression that sparrow populations have declined over the years. Thousands of citizens participated in the online survey and completed the questionnaire in eight Indian languages. Of the 5,730 participants, 25 per cent hailed from towns and villages, and the rest from large cities.

“The sparrows are seen in fewer places now than they were before 2005. Where they are still found, the numbers are lower than earlier, and nests fewer … This suggests sparrows have indeed declined and the low number of nests might mean that they are continuing to decline,” says the report.

Mumbai topped the charts with many more people reporting the presence of sparrows than those who did from Bengaluru and Chennai, where much larger participants said the bird was not found at all in their localities. Coimbatore and Pune came next, after Mumbai. Hyderabad and Delhi were intermediate.

The north-eastern States like Assam and central States such as Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand have reported a greater sparrow presence than other parts of the country.

The report concludes that the lifestyle of people from rural and semi-urban areas seem to be more conducive to bird survival as many reports of large flocks of sparrows having been seen have come in from towns and villages rather than from cities.

“Aspects such as the type of human dwellings; eating and buying habits of people; and land-use could be impacting the factors for bird survival such as availability of shelter and food,” the report says.