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The riddle of the vanishing sparrow decoded


New Delhi, Feb 18: 'Where have all the little sparrows gone?', this is the most frequently asked question these days. However, in some respite, the bird species, thought to be on decline appears to have levelled off, figures showed on Monday.

A nationwide bird-tracking exercise has revealed the House Sparrow has been found to be roughly stable, although declining in the major cities.

The riddle of the vanishing sparrow decoded

"Reasons for the suspected decline of this species are a matter of much speculation and are believed to include decreasing insect populations and paucity of suitable nesting sites," the report says.

Bonding with humans

The association between humans and the house sparrow dates back to several centuries -- no other bird has been associated with humans on a daily basis like the house sparrow. Sparrows are birds that evoke fond childhood memories and add a freshness to households through its presence.

Did mobile tower radiation cause extensive damage to sparrows?

The growing number of mobile users and with that mobile towers that mushroom around the country in unplanned manner was blamed for the decline in sparrows. However, the report did not support that evidence.

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"The popular theory that radiation from mobile phone towers is a factor is not supported by current evidence. Despite the widespread notion that the House Sparrow is declining in India, the analysis presented in this report suggests that the species has been fairly stable overall during the past 25 years'' it says.

Sparrows decline in metro cities

The report highlighted, although data from six largest metro cities - Bangalore, Chennai, Calcutta, Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai show a gradual decline in their presence, there is lack of evidence for countrywide decline.

"Extremely large range of the species (House Sparrow) across the country, and the lack of evidence for either long-term or current countrywide decline results in it being classified as of low conservation concern," said the report.

Nearly 400 Indian bird species on decline

50% of other Indian species of birds witnessed a significant drop in the las 25 years.

The birds that suffered the maximum loss in the previous quarter century are White-rumped Vulture, Richard's Pipit, Indian Vulture, Large-billed Leaf Warbler, Pacific Golden Plover and Curlew Sandpiper.

As many as 487 species were monitored for the long term, out of which nearly half, 226 to be precise, did not reveal any specific trend. Among the rest, 52% have declined since 2000, with 22% declining strongly.

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Similarly 677 species yielded short term data, out of which 531 species fall in the uncertain trend category. Among the remaining 146 species which showed an annual trend, nearly 80% are declining, with almost 50% declining strongly. In all, 101 species have been classified as of high conservation concern.

Peacock sees a significant rise

Painting a rosy picture, the report says the number of Indian national bird peafowl had increased significantly over the past decades.

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