The house sparrow is struggling to find a home in Delhi today, four years after it was declared the official State bird. Numbers of the once-ubiquitous small bird have declined over the years to a point that a sparrow sighting has become a happy but rare occasion.
The then Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit had in 2012 named the sparrow the State bird, after experts lobbied for the move in order to raise awareness and numbers.
Mohammed Dilawar, the president of the Nature Forever Society, had launched a campaign to save the sparrow in 2011 and given Ms. Dikshit a memorandum asking for the tag of the State bird for the sparrow.
“There has been a decline in sparrow population in the past decade, and not just in India. Sparrows are found near human habitation, not forests. It is important that urban habitats of sparrows are conserved,” said Mr. Dilawar.
While experts say sparrow population has been decreasing, there are no exact numbers. Mr. Dilawar said a common bird monitoring programme had been initiated, but it did not reach a critical mass to establish a trend. Data for at least five to six years will be needed to gauge the changes.
The Delhi Parks and Garden Society, which answers to the Delhi government’s Environment and Forest Department, conducts a bird count, but does not have details for individual species.
“We have managed to increase the total green cover in Delhi over the past few years and have been encouraging RWAs to plant sparrow-friendly plants. We have started seeing results in some areas,” said Dr. S.D. Singh, the CEO of the society.
He added that flocks of sparrows are seen at the society’s plant nursery near Millennium Bus Depot.
The former Chief Minister, who spearheaded the campaign to improve sparrow numbers, told The Hindu that the Aam Aadmi Party government has not done enough to carry on the programme.