I don’t think there is any Marathi Manus who hasn’t heard this phrase. No Marathi kid ever grew up without offering morsels to the sparrows. In fact, the sparrow, was a great accomplice for the parents in feeding their children.
Have you noticed that in the urban jungles that our cities have turned into, it has now become impossible for a young kid, and his parents, to find sparrows?
I realized this very recently when we visited one of our acquaintances. They had a strange contraption hanging in there balcony. I couldn’t figure out what it was. And so a curious being that I am, I asked the lady of the house what it was?
“It’s a sparrow feeder” she told me.
“And why do you keep a sparrow feeder?” “Haven’t you noticed that we don’t see any sparrows anymore?” Then I realized that I hadn’t seen a sparrow in a long time. In fact, after the kids grew up, and we didn’t need sparrows help in feeding them, I had almost stopped noticing them. And hence didn’t even notice their absence.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Why would someone have a sparrow feeder? How are the sparrows related to human beings. Is it endangered? Why does it matter if the sparrow survives or not? The answers I found were pretty interesting.
According to Wikipedia, The House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) is a bird of the sparrow family Passeridae, found in most parts of the world. It is the most widely distributed wild bird. The House Sparrow is strongly associated with human habitations, and can live in urban or rural settings.
According to ornithologist Mohammed Dilawar, founder of Nature Forever , an organization dedicated to saving sparrows, “Sparrows are to urban ecosystems what the canary was to mines. That it is dying out means our cities are in trouble.”
While I was researching about the sparrow, I read that there are no sparrows in China. That seemed very strange. Investigating further, I learnt about the Four Pests Campaign launched by Chairman Mao Zedong in China, to kill four pests viz. Mosquitoes, flies, Sparrows and Rats. Rats and sparrows were targeted because they competed for the same grains which was in short supply for the human beings.
The masses of China were mobilized to eradicate the sparrows, and citizens took to banging pots and pans or beating drums to scare the birds from landing, forcing them to fly until they fell from the sky in exhaustion. Sparrow nests were torn down, eggs were broken, and nestlings were killed.
By April 1960, Chinese leaders realized that sparrows ate a large amount of insects, as well as grains.Rather than being increased, rice yields after the campaign were substantially decreased. Mao ordered the end of the campaign against sparrows. By this time, however, it was too late. With no sparrows to eat them, locust populations ballooned, swarming the country and compounding the ecological problems already caused by widespread deforestation and misuse of poisons and pesticides, leading to the Great Chinese Famine in which upwards of 30 million people died of starvation.
By now, I was looking to get a sparrow feeder for us, but didn’t know where to get it. That’s when I came across Nature Forever’s online shop. You can buy a feeder for just 89 Rupees. I bought 5. . One for us, two for both my sisters, one for my in laws, and one for my brother-in-law in Bangalore. I am very happy to report that sparrows have started making an appearance in our balcony and on some days, I wake up to their chatter.
So when are you buying your sparrow feeder?