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Commemorating sparrows in the world of philately

TreeTake is a monthly bilingual colour magazine on environment that is fully committed to serving Mother Nature with well researched, interactive and engaging articles and lots of interesting info.

Commemorating sparrows in the world of philately

In India, we come across many species of birds during our lifetime but the importance of house sparrow (Passer domesticus) is of immense importance...

Commemorating sparrows in the world of philately

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World Sparrow Day- 20th March- Special

Rahul Rohitashwa, Ornithologist and Eco-Philatelist, Bhagalpur, Bihar, & Pushpa Khamesra, Nature Activist and Eco-Philatelist, Udaipur, Rajasthan

Among all the vertebrates, birds are the most charming, interesting, beautiful and melodious group. Birds are eco-friendly creatures and are important component of our ecosystem. They play a key role to maintain the ecological balance. The diversity and beauty of birds command our instant attention in variety of ways. In India, we come across many species of birds during our lifetime but the importance of house sparrow (Passer domesticus) is of immense importance. In our country birds like house crow, jungle crow, common myna, rock pigeon, spotted dove, pariah kite, rose ringed parakeet and house sparrow etc. are of utmost importance because they are the pioneer species which we have been witnessing since our childhood. Also, these birds love human intimacy to such an extent that they help us in learning the basics of avian behavior from the early stages of our life.

House Sparrow: House sparrows are one of the most common birds of India. In India five species of sparrows are found. These include the house sparrow (Passer domesticus), Spanish sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis), Sind sparrow (Passer pyrrhonotus), Russet sparrow (Passer rutilans) and the Eurasian tree sparrow (Passer montanus). Among them the house sparrow or common sparrow is the most common, small, and resident bird of our country. From time immemorial this bird has been closely associated with human habitation consequently they are often spotted feeding, nesting, roosting and chirping around us. The House Sparrow is a bird of the sparrow family Passeridae found in most parts of the world as well as it is also the state bird of Bihar and Delhi. The sparrow symbolizes power, creativity, community, sympathy and empowerment. In Bible sparrows have been used as an “Illustration of God’s love” and it says that this bird comes in your life to remind you the importance of happiness in life and also perpetuate good luck.

Significance of House Sparrows: House sparrows also play a very important role in our environment because they act as a natural pest control by feeding on larvae of mosquitoes and other harmful insects which cause dreadful and life-threatening diseases. They also act as an important plant pollinators (Ornithophily or Bird Pollination) because when sparrows comes in contact of flowers than the pollen grains of flowers stuck to their, bellies, beak and feathers which in turn are transferred to other plants thus helping in pollination of plants.

The Status Quo: The house sparrow which was once the most common and dominant species of bird in India has now disappeared in most of the part of the country. Gone are the days when these beautiful birds roamed our houses day in, day out. In our childhood we all have witnessed flocks of sparrows roaming in the sky at dawn and dusk. But today these have become memories of the past. Scientists have observed a sharp decline of house sparrows during the last few decades. A survey conducted by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in the year 2010 indicated that we have lost around 80 percent of house sparrow population all over the country. Due to population explosion and global warming the major cities of our country are now converting into the Rising Heat Island (RHI), Uncontrolled air and water pollution, Ill effects of pesticides as well as biomagnifications, Loss of traditional habitat, Competition for nesting sites with other species of birds like pigeon and mynas and threats from predators like cats and other large birds have contributed equally in the rapid decline of house sparrows. Perhaps this is the reason that in the year 2010 Britain’s Royal Society of Protection of Birds (RSPB) had enlisted the house sparrows in the ‘Red List’ on the basis of findings of researches in different parts of the world including those from India.  On the other hand, due to the micro level conservation efforts going on in our country by means of various governmental and non-governmental organizations and individual efforts the populations of sparrows are rebounding in our backyards though at a slow pace.

Conservation Initiatives: Witnessing the sudden and fast decline of sparrow’s population many conservation related initiatives are being taken in many countries so as to sensitize people and creating mass awareness on this vital issue. In this respect the postal department of India and also of other countries have taken remarkable steps by issuing postage stamps, miniature sheets, and special covers dedicating to conservation of these magnificent birds. Coming to the Indian perspective, the India Post in the year 2010 issued a set of two special stamps, one of sparrow and other of a pigeon having denomination of 500 paisa each in a beautiful and multicolor miniature sheet depicting a pair of sparrows sitting over an earthen pot. These stamps were highly appreciated by the bird lovers and ornithologists and it also gave impetus to the postal department for issuing such type of philatelic material in future too as  the department can play an essential role in conservation of nature and natural resources. 

Apart from issuing postage stamps the postal department of India has also issued various special covers from time to time to create mass awareness towards conservation of sparrows. As for instance a special cover was released on 09.10.2012 from Delhi Postal Circle on the occasion of “District Level Philatelic Exhibition” depicting a male house sparrow. Another special cover was released on 06.02.2014 again from  New Delhi Postal Circle commemorating ‘CHITRALI-Row of beautiful pictures’ on the occasion of “District Level Philatelic Exhibition” depicting a house sparrow sitting on a twig with an important message “Save House Sparrow”. On 18.3.2015, from Bhopal GPO, a special cover was issued in which a sparrow was shown feeding on the scattered grains with the message ‘Save Birds’. Every year on 20th of March we celebrate “World Sparrow Day” so as to pay attention to these important birds. To commemorate this event postal department has released two special covers in the year 2016 & 2021 from Department of Forest and Wildlife, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow circle and from Allahabad Postal circle respectively depicting sparrows with special cancellations.  

Sparrows on Foreign Postage Stamps: Sparrows are not only confined to our country rather they are also found in other parts of the world as well. Considering the rapid decline and need for their instantaneous conservation efforts the postal department of other countries have also issued postage stamps featuring sparrows. As for instance, countries like Iran, Poland, Batum, Bangladesh, Belgium, Denmark, Cambodia, Helvetia, San Marino, Sharjah & Dependencies etc. has issued postage stamps on sparrows and related species in order to sensitize people and to help in survival of this specie.

Due to rapid decline in number of house sparrows several organizations, NGOs and bird lovers across different countries have taken serious steps like in restoring the population of house sparrows like organizing nature watch programme, seminars and workshops, save house sparrow campaigns, installation of artificial nests in home etc. Governmental organizations like the India Post has issued postage stamps and other philatelic items from time to time to encourage more and more people to actively participate meticulously in their conservation efforts. Sparrows are among the birds which are very sensitive to changes in the environment. They also act as an important bio-indicator for a healthy eco-system. Hence, considering the importance of house sparrows in our eco-system, this  becomes our moral duty to help in re-establishment of these chirpy birds which once adorned our home and gardens.                                                   

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