Sparrows – a disappearing act

Mohammed Dilawar

nest It has been said that birds can exist without man but that man will perish without birds. Birds perform important ecosystem processes, particularly, pollination and seed dispersal. Nectivorous birds that help in pollination help in increasing the yield of economically important plants. Many plants are exclusively dependent on pollinating agents for seed formation. Scavenging species of birds also play an important role in nature as they help keep disease outbreaks under control. Birds are technologically and biologically advanced, highly motivated, extremely efficient, and cost-effective, insect-pest controllers. A large proportion of the birds’ food consists of insects including many that are in the highest degree injurious to man and his interests. Fruit eating birds help in the dispersal of seeds which aids forest regeneration, avoids seed predation and assists in increasing the genetic pool of plants. Seed dispersal by birds also helps in re-colonization and restoration of disturbed sites.

Common birds are on the decline across the world, and India is no exception, providing evidence of a rapid deterioration in the global environment that is affecting all life on earth – including human life. Habitat destruction and modification along with changing lifestyle, are some of the major reasons for the decline.

Mohammed Dilawar has been working for the conservation of House Sparrows for 5 years now. He received the Time magazine’s “Heroes of Environment” award in 2008 for his work in the conservation of House Sparrows. He is currently heading a project implemented by the Bombay Natural History Society to study the decline of House Sparrows in India. He can be reached at [email protected].

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