Has there really been a shap decline the population of House Sparrows in India? In our corner of the National Capital Region (Noida) evidence points the other way.
This summer our home seems to have become the favoured destination for a variety of creatures. A couple of squirrels have claimed the space under a bedroom airconditioner; A pigeon laid two eggs on another window ledge, a tennis-ball-sized honeycomb nest on the foyer roof is home to family of yellow wasps, and the fourth corner of the house is the domain of Captain Sparrow and his family.
Three years ago, four organisations - BNHS, MoEF, NCBS and NCF - had launched a two-month campaign to build public awareness on the disappearing House Sparrow. While participating in the nation-wide "Citizen Sparrow"survey I had pointed out that, at least in Noida, there was absolutely no shortage of this little bird. They were all over the place - in the hedges, on the Arjuna trees, and all over the local vegetable market.
As if to reinforce this data-point, Captain Sparrow landed on one of our windows that just would not close. In this gap, safe from the prying claws of crows, rats and black-shouldered kites, it started making a tentative nest. At first it was a shoddy piece of work and none of his girlfriends were impressed. He then added a roof, some extra furnishings, and got steady with one.
First it was a single, tiny, speckled egg.
A week later there were three more.
All four eggs went out of sight for a while until one morning we discovered that there were two plump little chicks in the nest.
Every morning they made a huge racket and Captain and his wife seemed to be perpetually going to and fro getting them things to eat. If any of us approached the nest for a peek, the chicks would quickly backtrack in to the deepest corner, turning themselves completely silent and invisible against the straws and twigs.
Then, as suddenly as they had come, both the chicks turned into young ladies and flew away. So that was that we thought, time to clean up the window sill and settle down for some peace and quiet.
We then went off on a three week holiday in mid-May. When we returned home in the June, not only had Captain refurbished his hangout, it was now a plush nest with two more chicks!
So in just one summer, our window sill has been a maternity ward that has seen four baby sparrows fly out into the world.
Will Captain Sparrow come back again next season? We hope so!
* Citizen Sparrow - http://www.citizensparrow.in/
* India Searches for its missing sparrows (2012) - http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/india-searches-for-its-missing-sparrows/article3287189.ece
* Citizen Sparrow Survey Report (2013)