Bengaluru: House sparrows have become a rare sight in Bengaluru. These chirpy, small birds seem to have vanished from the bustling tech-city. On World Sparrow Day, we speak to Edwin Joseph, popularly known as Sparrow Man, who has transformed his home into a sanctuary for the little gregarious birds.
"It all started 12 years back. My wife used to clean rice in a pan. The broken rice used to fall down and we would see lots of house sparrows at her feet. I asked her to put some more rice and their numbers soared. Somebody gave us plants to put in pots for the house sparrows to lay eggs. Then I made small houses for them. When we started out, we would feed around 12 birds in a day. Now there are about 200 house sparrows here," Mr Joseph said.
When asked about the unusual interest in house sparrows, Mr Joseph said, "During my childhood, I used to see plenty of house sparrows around my house. There was nest for sparrows in our room when I got married. But they suddenly started disappearing. I once saw a sparrow stuffed and kept in a glass box at a museum. It was being shown as Indian sparrow. If we don't take measures to save them now, we may reach such stage."
Blaming the residents for the disappearance of the house sparrows, he said trees across the city are being chopped off making way for a jungle of cement and concrete. Lakes are also fast disappearing. The birds are deprived of shelter, shadow, food and water.
"Mobile towers and the electromagnetic waves generated from them aggravate the problem. When I visited a country in South America, I couldn't find any towers in the city. They are all in the outskirts of the city. But here, you can get permission for the towers if you can pay-off authorities," Mr Joseph said.
But all is not lost and you can do your bit to save the house sparrow from extinction. Mr Joseph said, "You will have to cultivate the habit of loving birds and animals, give them little food, and keep some water on the terrace or outside your house for them to drink. That is what I request people."
A former employee of BEML Bengaluru, surviving on a pension of Rs. 1600 per month, Edwin Joseph faced difficulties when he started out. He rues about never getting any help and support from the government and the civic body. "I never got any support. I started out on my own along with my wife," he said.
But Mr Joseph is now a happy man. He wakes up to the chirping of the house sparrows every morning. The birds fly down in the early morning hours and feed on the food and water left out for them by Edwin joseph and his wife. Although it started out with uncooked rice grains, now the sparrows eat cooked rice, millet, idli, dosa, and chapattis among other things. They care for the house sparrows as one would for their children.
Observed on 20 March, World Sparrow Day is a day designated for raising awareness mainly about house sparrows and other birds common to urban environments, and about what threatens their existence. The Nature Forever Society, a part of the international initiative to save house sparrows, was started by Mohammed Dilawar, an Indian conservationist who started his work helping the house sparrow in Nashik. He was named one of the "Heroes of the Environment" for 2008 by TIME Magazine for his efforts.
The first World Sparrow Day was observed in 2010 across the world. This day also has a broader vision to provide a platform to people who are working on the conservation of the house sparrow and other common birds to network, collaborate and exchange conservation ideas which will lead to better results.