Environment

Stuck at home again this summer? Bring sparrows to your urban neighbourhoods

A female sparrow spotted in Chennai   | Photo Credit: Koodugal

Thousands of tiny, earthy-hued sparrows roaming raucously across neighbourhoods was a common sight for most city-dwellers through the 1980s and early 1990s.

Cut to three decades later, the ubiquitous avians are out of sight, and for younger generations, out of mind as well. But all is not lost. Even as a second round of movement restrictions looms, staying home can mean more birds chirping by your window and sipping from your bird baths.

Ganeshan D or Kuruvi Ganeshan, as he is known in conservation circles, is a professor of Mechanical Engineering at SRM institute of science and technology in Ramapuram. As a student, Ganeshan was introduced to a nest box, a simple wooden contraption that provided a safe space for sparrows to nest.

A nest box by Koodugal

A nest box by Koodugal   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Since then, Ganeshan has set up nest boxes across schools. He is hopeful of sparrows visiting homes as long a they are provided with ideal conditions. “The most important thing is building something of sturdy material, no loud colours or decorations, placing the entrance cavity at the right height and then leaving the area with no additional materials inside. You will see that using regular wood for the box keeps the temperature fairly stable inside even as the mercury soars,” Ganeshan explains.

The professor has tinkered with various dimensions for the box and has arrived at a standard measurement that has a high success rate of occupancy round the year. He has uploaded tutorials on DIY nest boxes on his YouTube channel.

In Kanathur, Haresh Chugani and his wife Andrea have shared their sea-facing home with sparrows since 2015. “I started with a simple cardboard box at home with a water bowl next to it by our mezzanine window. We saw birds singing at dawn fairly soon. I then moved onto simple recycled wood boxes, and even experimented with tethering them in a row. But it turns out, sparrows like space between two nests,” says Haresh.

Build a nest box
  • Nest boxes are not fancy contraptions. A simple cardboard box or spare wood will do, between six and 12 inches. The smaller the box, the cosier it is for the birds. It must not emit any strong odours.
  • Then, make a hole the size of a five year old’s bangle, around the middle of the box, or slightly higher than that. You can insert a pencil or wooden dowel near the bottom on either side so the birds can stand near the hole and feed their chicks.
  • Tape the box around for longevity. Place the box at a height, away from direct sunlight, and near a bowl of water, shallow enough for the little birds to take a dip without the fear of drowning.
  • Leave it undisturbed. Sparrows know how to keep their homes clean.
  • Make two boxes at least to give the birds a choice, and maintain a minimum distance of five feet between them. Sparrows are territorial and could get in fights, if their homes are too close.
  • - Haresh Chugani

He has a simple mantra when it comes to care for sparrows during the summer. “The best way is to try and internalise — what do we do when it gets too hot for us? We go to a cooler place with shade, a light breeze and get a drink of water. The same applies for any living creature.”

The couple shares their home with their daughter and a motley crew of three dogs, hens, sparrows and bees. “In the last four to five years, we have seen at least 500 sparrows make their way through our house. We have boxes in our hall, bathrooms and some prefer the pelmets of our room. They have learned to share food with our chickens and other animals around,” explains Haresh.

A setup by Haresh Chugani

A setup by Haresh Chugani   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Some observations the family has made while sharing their home are that male sparrows (with black plumage under the neck) will teach the young ones to fly. So, it is best to witness the training without interfering in the process. Expect loud chirping noises during flight training.

Haresh’s four-year-old daughter Xoe, has grown up with sparrows announcing the break of dawn, a world most of us do not inhabit, but one more of us would like to see — skies and trees speckled with sparrows.

Contact Kuruvi Ganeshan at koodugal.org and Haresh Chugani at livingearthtrust.com for more tips.

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Printable version | May 6, 2021 7:14:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/bring-sparrrows-to-your-neighbourhood/article34327071.ece

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