Sonika Kushwaha, President, Indian Biodiversity Conservation Society
Since more than a decade now, Passer domesticus, (commonly called, House sparrows, “Gauraiya” in Hindi language) are still struggling for their existence. However, unlike the big cats, it is possible for every human being to save these tiny twittering birds. World sparrow day is celebrated every year on March 20 due to the initiatives taken by Nature Forever Society, Pune in the year 2010. The theme for this year is “Let’s care for sparrow by creating their habitat.” To bring about awareness, Indian Biodiversity Conservation Society (IBCS) organized various events like painting competitions in school and workshops in colleges. A national webinar was organized by Indian Biodiversity Conservation Society, Jhansi in collaboration with Environmental Awareness Cell and Zoology Department, Bharatiya Vidhya Bhavan Girls Degree College, Lucknow. The purpose of the webinar was to reach out to people all over India, so as to sensitize them to come forward and take the initiatives for sparrow conservation, introduction about house sparrows, morphological difference between male, female and juvenile, behavioral aspects, ecological importance, and causes of decline, conservation initiatives and awareness drive. More than 80 participants and their families from 14 states of India attended the Webinar on “House Sparrows: Concerns and Conservation.” The informative and vibrant invited lectures by Dr Kavyanjali Shukla, Science Communicator from Hong Kong and Dr Akhilesh Kumar, Wildlife Biologist from India influenced the participants in favour of sparrow conservation.
Dr Kavyanjali communicated about the study carried out by the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society (HKBWS), Hong Kong on Eurasian tree sparrows (Passer montanus) that showed a decline in their population in 2018. Again, in the year 2021, a decline was observed by HKBWS in some areas of Hong Kong, the reasons are still to be speculated. Dr Akhilesh discussed almost every aspect of house sparrows including their behavior, declining causes, conservation initiatives and awareness (Kumar, 2018). It was an informative learning session. He further gave a detailed presentation on the preparation and installation of artificial nest boxes for house sparrows (Kumar et.al., 2019). Dr Akhilesh explained in detail about the disadvantages of unscientific & inappropriate nest boxes. People make large holes in the nest boxes for sparrows to enter, which invite birds such as myna and squirrels to occupy the nest boxes. The big hole is also risky for the chicks that may fall down. Predators like hawks, crows, cats can easily attack sparrows and chicks if the size of the hole is large. So, when preparing the nest box, the hole size should be 3.2cm in diameter. The students were also taught how to make artificial nest boxes using the waste material like shoe boxes and other cardboard boxes, earthen pots. The wooden nest box could be prepared by the carpenter or purchased from the market. The significance of the size of the entrance hole in the artificial nest boxes was discussed in detail. The workshop also reflected on the points that should be followed when installing the nest boxes:
- Observe safe location for installation so that it could not be approached by predators.
- The boxes should be fixed at an average height of 6-24 feet.
- The nest boxes should be fixed under shaded portion of the house so as to prevent the direct effect of rainfall, dew and sunlight.
- All the boxes should be fixed such that they are supported by wall. This is done to reduce the free movement of the nest box when approached by the nesting birds.
- Ensure that the box do not move too much in windy and stormy weather.
The webinar became all the more gratifying by the involvement of enthusiastic kids, Prakriti Shukla (2 years old) from Bangalore dressed up as a little sparrow and Sukriti Shukla (5 years) from Pune reciting poem on sparrow. The noteworthy participation of Ayan (11 years old) and Abeer (9 years old) from Pune with their attention-grabbing questions filled everyone with all the more eagerness for the House sparrows. Furthermore, the feedback forms after the programme were collected from the participants that had valuable suggestions for the organizers like organization of more webinars on environmental related issues, more involvement of students, inclusion of videos and activities like quiz or games related to the topic.