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The stately sparrow

The once common house sparrow — the bird that inspired India’s most famous ornithologist Salim Ali to take up the profession — is a rare sight these days. It was an encounter with a common sparrow that pushed India’s original birdman Salim Ali to become an ornithologist. Once found in large numbers across the country, however, the bird isn’t as common anymore.

With their natural nesting places being taken over the numbers of these birds, thought to have originated in the Mediterranean, have been dwindling in various countries.

This is what pushed the Nashik-based Nature Forever Society (NFS) to write to the Delhi government a year and a half ago. They hoped that the government could join their campaign to save the tiny birds and help spread awareness across the country.

Their patience paid off and in August this year, the organisation finally got an impetus from the government. On the eve of Independence Day, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit launched the Rise for the Sparrows campaign, the aim of which is which aims to reach out to people across the Indian subcontinent and empower them with quick and simple solutions that will aid in sparrow conservation in India.

Oan Dilawar, CEO from NNFS, says, “On October 5, at the beginning of the National Wildlife Week, Sheila Dixit made an announcement from her residence that the House Sparrow was to be the State Bird of Delhi.”

Awareness
On the occasion, India Post unveiled a special cover commemorating the bird. “This is part of the highly respected philatelic exhibition in the capital. It will help create more awareness among the masses,” says Oan.

The founder and president of NFS, Mohammed Dilawar, adds, “The House Sparrow is the country’s only state bird that isn’t severely threatened.” What is worrying, however, is that there is no official count on of the number of House Sparrows in the state or the country.

“We are encouraging people to help us monitor the House Sparrow. This would help us tremendously to trace the profile of sparrows, both in Delhi and across the country,” he adds. This isn’t the only initiative to save sparrows. Between April to June this year, the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) organised the Citizen Sparrow Initiative. “It was an online survey that helped us track general trends of urban versus rural sparrow populations. But there is a lot more to be done still,” says K Karthik, BNHS’s sparrow project scientist. NFS, the eight-year old organisation, has been working hard to create awareness about the country’s common flora and fauna.

Earlier this year, on World Environment Day, celebrated on June 5, the organisation started the Common Bird Monitoring of India (CBMI). Through this initiative, they urged citizens to help them monitor the 18 common species of birds in India. Every month a different bird is selected the bird of the month. The sparrow was June’s bird. “Participation in the north is much higher,” says Oan. “I urge Mumbaiites to register on our website (www.cbmi.org) and help monitor and protect these birds. It doesn’t take more than 15 minutes.” This month’s bird is the Red Vented Bulbul.

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