Some school students adopted Chinnavedampatti on World Sparrow Day to improve the sparrow population in the village

“There was a time when we woke up to their ‘chirp chirp’ every morning. They sat on the power lines; flew about the village feeding on the cholam and paddy …there were so many of them. Where have they gone now?” wonders R. Mahadeven, the corporation councillor for ward 29. Sparrows could soon return to his village, thanks to the ‘Adopt a Sparrow Village’ campaign.

K’Sirs, an international school in the city, has adopted Chinnavedampatti of ward 29, to help improve the sparrow population there. The programme has been initiated by Young Indians, in association with the Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History.

What do sparrows eat? Where do they build their nests? What are the types of sparrows commonly seen in India? Why are their numbers dwindling? What can we do to help them? Through his presentation, Joseph Reginald Louis of SACON introduced the students into the world of sparrows. The children listened with interest; for they had to convey the message to the people of Chinnavedampatti that afternoon.

Tile-roofed houses provide sparrows cosy crevices to raise their young — Chinnavedampatti had plenty of such structures. A couple of sparrows darted past from a green patch — there were signs of hope as the students walked into the village. They started by distributing pamphlets that carried simple tips on what one could do to help sparrows.

“It’s entirely our fault. Where can sparrows nest in our village? What can they eat? We’ve taken away everything they need,” said S. Balan as he read from the pamphlet. Though she couldn’t read, Saraswathy looked at the photos of the birds on the leaflet with interest. “I heard that these birds are gone…If these educated people tell me what do to, I am ready do help,” she said.

“Please leave some water and grains on your verandah for sparrows. We need to do something for them… talk about this to your friends as well,” urged student M. Guhan as he handed over a pamphlet to a lady. M. Surya, K. Surya, Harrshi, Hareesh, Mogana Laaxmi, Tharun…the students went door-to-door to pass on the sparrow message.

In the coming days, they will install bamboo nest boxes and earthen water bowls in the village and visit the people every week.

It’s not easy for outsiders to win the trust of the people, said Lalitha Prakash, the school’s secretary. “About 30 people from Chinnavedampatti are employed with us. We have trained them to talk to their fellow villagers. They are a huge help.” Their helper Sundaravalli, for instance, a native of Chinnavedampatti, accompanied the students as they spoke to her people.

“A man mocked, ‘What sittu kuruvi? They are setha kuruvi now’,” said a tired and dusty Harrshi as the students gathered under a tree at the end of the expedition. But she shrugged it off — there was plenty of work to be done in the village.

Kuruvi facts

There are five species of sparrows in India. They are: Russet, Eurasian Tree, Spanish, Sind and House sparrow

Lack of nesting sites and food due to destruction of habitat are among the major reasons for the present state of sparrows

More research has to be done to prove that mobile phone radiations cause a decline in the sparrow population

Ganapathy Managar has one of the largest sparrow roosts in the city. There are over 300 in the area

Keywords: Sparrows