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The House sparrow is a common bird in the Indian subcontinent, especially in urban areas. They are known by all Indians and are found everywhere, from backyard gardens to tall skyscrapers. However, the population of House Sparrows is gradually disappearing.
According to a recent study from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the House Sparrow population has dwindled up to 88 percent in Andhra Pradesh. In other states like Rajasthan, Kerela, and Gujarat, it has decreased up to 20 percent. The common House Sparrow that lived in the cavities of houses and nibbled off leftover food now sits on the red list of endangered species of The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
According to a few studies, the now endangered house sparrow followed humans everywhere and could not live in the areas where humans did not live. Fossil evidence from a cave in Bethlehem dating back almost 4,00,000 years states that the bird shared its space with the early humans.
According to a Royal Society of London report in 2018, the bond that humans and sparrows share traces its roots back to 11,000 years, and the friendly gene of the House Sparrow tells us a story related to human evolution. According to the study, agriculture led to the evolution of three distinct species- the dog, humans, and house sparrow.
With the onset of agriculture, the now endangered House Sparrow evolved differently from other wild birds. The bird has a pair of genes- AMY2A– this gene helps the birds digest complex carbohydrates. That’s why the House Sparrows love starchy rice and wheat, just like humans.
According to conservationists and experts, the population of House Sparrows has declined due to noise pollution (which disturbs acoustic ecology), chemical fertilizers in our crops, toxic exhaust fumes from vehicles, and the unfriendly architecture of urban homes. It has not yet been determined if the digital revolution jammed the bird’s air passages. However, it is interesting to note that the House Sparrow began to decline in the late 1990s- the period when mobile phones entered India.
Currently, efforts are in play to increase the population of endangered House Sparrows. According to Mohammed Dilawar, a scientist-conservationist, previously, the House Sparrow was not considered endangered enough to put a lot of effort into its conservation. He further adds that a high-spirited campaign led by the outfit “Nature Forever”, resulted in March 20th being observed as ‘World Sparrow Day, along with the House Sparrows being announced as the State Bird of Delhi in 2012.
Today, Dilawar states that the House Sparrows enjoy a high profile worldwide, and its conservation today has become a people’s movement. There is no information available regarding the impact of the campaign that focuses on doable, easy, and affordable things such as keeping water and grain bowls in windows and hanging nesting boxes.
Many believe that the endangered House Sparrow is resurrecting today. According to the 60-year-old bird watcher Jasmine Lamba, thanks to the massive number of people who were waiting to see the House Sparrow that connected them to their childhood memories, the bird is coming back. Lamba, who lives in a housing society on the Delhi-UP border, further states that there were zero sparrows last spring; however, today, there are plenty.
Not everybody is like Jasmine Lamba, who is very fond of birds. There are several people who have the opposite feeling. These people see the House Sparrow as an invasive pest- a kind of brown-winged rat stealing food. According to biologist and author Rob Dunn, the human love-hate relationship with the bird is typical of human beings.