World Sparrow Day: How to make your home a haven

For A Sadhana Rajkumar, today is not particularly special. “Everyday has to be Sparrow Day, till I see them again in Chennai,” says the bird enthusiast who has done her doctorate on house sparrows.

“Of all the bird species, this is one that is heavily dependent on humans. There is a reason they have been named ‘house sparrows’,” she says. With sparrow population still on a decline in the city, Sadhana says there are a number of steps Chennaiites can take to make their homes and gardens more sparrow-friendly.

“When I was a child, sparrows would keep coming in and out of our house in Perambur. They would build nests in the corner of a room, and we would have to go without a fan for days,” she recalls with a laugh. She acknowledges, “Our homes these days are not built for such a situation. But if you have a balcony on an upper floor, there is plenty you can do.”

Birdhouses, for instance, can be made of sturdy cardboard, terracotta or discarded wood. These birds don’t need elaborate ones, she says. In fact they prefer small spaces. “Give them a foot of space, and keep a two-inch opening. That is just enough for them to flit in and out, without letting in predators.”

After housing, comes food. “Small sparrows can’t eat grains like other birds. They need worms, for their protein,” says Sadhana.


To attract the right kind of birds, all you have to do is plant the right kind of saplings. Which are the right ones? Any that is indigenous to this part of the country. Small insects or worms are drawn to them and sparrows love pecking off them.

“Make sure you have water nearby too. You can make little water bowls from discarded bottles. There are plenty of websites to show you how,” she says.

While house sparrows prefer living in and around sturdy human dwellings “to feel safe,” says Sadhana, they also need trees. The makeshift nest — or any nest — is used only for breeding, feeding and keeping the young ones safe. Sparrows are a very social species, and they need trees like the mango or neem to socialise on. They also prefer sleeping on trees, and keep the nest only for feeding,” she says.


A place called home

There are also a few precautions to be kept in mind. For instance, nests or birdhouses should be at least 10 feet above the ground, to keep predators (think: your domestic cat) at bay. The nests should also be facing either the West or the South, says Sadhana, “The idea is that it should not be directly exposed to the harsh sun.”

Once you have all these physical needs covered, you need to grant them one last thing: privacy. “Don’t keep hovering around the nest to take photos; let them fly in and out in peace. You don’t even have to line the birdhouse with nesting material — in fact, they prefer it if you don’t. They will collect twigs and other things and do it themselves.”

If you are wondering why should one go through all this trouble, Sadhana reminds us of just how much we, as a species, need sparrows too.

“Sparrows also feed on mosquitos, and are particularly good at keeping them away, since both sparrows and mosquitos have tended to grow around humans over time. They keep us safe from vector-borne diseases,” she emphasises.

If you want a simpler reason, she has that too. “Sparrows make for great company. You will be sitting at home anyway, why not sit at home with a sparrow chirping nearby?”

March 20 is World Sparrow Day.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 10:20:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/world-sparrow-day-tips-for-sparrow-friendly-homes/article31109306.ece

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