Birds of Morni: House Sparrow

House Sparrow/ Chirih– once a common bird, about 6″ in size that occurs wherever human habitations exist. The male has a grey crown with a black bill, throat and black around the eye. Body is rufous-chestnut above with a white shoulder patch.Tail is dark brown and underparts are grey white. Females are grey-brown above and white below. It feeds on insects, fruit, grain and kitchen scraps.  It was considered a pest by the farmers when its numbers were more numerous as flocks would ‘invade’ the fields where grain was stored. It builds its nest with straw, feathers and rubbish in holes or crevices in buildings.

In the past decade, there has been a precipitous fall in the numbers of the House Sparrow in Europe and Asia. Different theories have been advanced by the ornithologists and experts. Its largely accepted that decline in the number of insects due to use of pesticides and air pollution etc has led to increased chick mortality amongst House Sparrows that feed their chicks largely on insects. Radiation from mobile phone towers may also be partially responsible. Lack of availability of nesting sites due to change in urban housing designs that are free of nooks and crevices is a possible reason, at least in Europe. Increase in number of predators like sparrowhawks, magpies etc has also been blamed. Some believe that the decline might be due to some unknown disease. While experts debate the reasons and bird lovers make emotional gestures like installing nest boxes/ nest homes for the sparrow, the sad decline continues. The bird is virtually extinct in the cities but is still visible in diminished numbers in the countryside, the lightly wooded areas and the hills. Small parties of house sparrows are occasionally spotted in the hamlets and fields of Morni hills.

House Sparrow, Bunga, Morni hills

20th of March has been celebrated as the World Sparrow Day for 3 consecutive years from 2010  to 2012 to spread awareness about the destruction of habitat of the sparrow by holding events for students, local communities etc.

Sparrows near Chhamla, Morni Hills
Sparrows near Chhamla, Morni Hills