The ''World Sparrow Day'' is here and it’s a great time to take a look at the situation of sparrows in Delhi and surrounding areas.
Once considered to be on the verge of extinction, the population of House Sparrows (the Delhi state bird) is partially reviving in the city and its nearby regions.
Ashok Makkad, a birdwatcher and wildlife photographer from Ashok Nagar Ghaziabad, shared some photographs with City Spidey and said, “In the last three years I have noticed that there is a sharp increase in the number of sparrows in the area. Now I can easily watch hundreds of sparrows in shrubs and vacant lands near my house every day.”
According to birdwatchers and ornithologists the green belt surrounding Delhi such as JNU, Aravallis, etc, was once filled with house sparrows but they diminished sharply in the previous decade. However, in the last five-six years there has been a pretty good resurgence in their numbers.
The birds can be witnessed in huge numbers near Metro stations or low-rise residential pockets across Delhi and the NCR.
Ornithologist and professor in IP University, Dwarka, Dr Sumit Dookia and his students have been observing the birds in Najafgarh Zone and Dwarka since 2010.
Dr Yogesh Parashar, a birdwatcher and member of Indian Birding Association, who has been observing birds for more than four decades, said, “About 20-30 years back house sparrows were good in numbers. But suddenly there was a sharp decline in their population due to blind urbanisation and town planning. So during the period of 2005-2010 the topic of house sparrows was pretty hot as they couldn’t be witnessed in Delhi and its surrounding areas. However, during the last few years these birds are visible at least in those places where they were once seen.”
Experts claim that the sparrows have been noticed near various DDA flats, and other buildings where they are able to find suitable food and place for nesting.
Eminent wildlife biologist Faiyaz Khudsar said that the birds have adopted some habitats in Delhi that are semi-urban or wilderness zones.
The sparrows prefer places like Dwarka, Rohini, Indirapuram, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon and some areas near Metro lines.
Faiyaz said, “The sparrow chooses predator-free places, and the areas with clear visibility for their habitat. Delhi’s peripheral areas have not yet seen very heavy urbanisation and there is still wilderness.”
He further added, “The sparrow is called 'passer domesticus', which shows the importance of domestic environment and its surroundings for them. There are grasses like Paricuma and Seteria in the vacant lands around those areas where they are nesting, as these grasses help them prepare their nests. Further, these plants and grasses host insects like moths and butterflies, which provide protein for survival of the nestlings. The adoption of these nesting sites show that sparrows have great breeding potential if the environment is favourable, even in urban areas.”
An environmentalist and curator at Aravalli biodiversity park Gurgaon, Vijay Dhasmana said, “It’s true that the birds' population is reviving. However, the areas for sparrows to exist are shrinking rapidly. From the landscape point of view we are seeing more and more trees but there is dearth of open grasslands and shrubs, which are ecologically important for the sparrows. Also we are not planting the right native plants according to the landscape, which in turn is creating trouble for the birds.”
Ornithologists, birdwatchers and environmentalists were overjoyed as they discussed the enhanced population of sparrows with City Spidey.
Although, the population growth hasn’t been calculated in numbers, it feels amazing to watch these birds in areas like Najafgarh, Dwarka, Gurgaon, Faridabad, etc.
However, despite the enhanced visibility emerging as a satisfactory sign, experts are concerned about decreasing shrubs and other supportive factors necessary for sparrows’ long-term survival.