Saving the sparrow: Artificial nests see high acceptance, breeding success, says study

The breeding success by the house sparrows at the nests was 72.6 per cent, said Dr Pande while releasing the report ahead of World Sparrow Day that is observed on March 20.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune | Published: March 20, 2018 10:21:48 am
World Sparrow Day An artificial nest box.

The population of House Sparrow has been dwindling over the past decade. But now measures are being taken to save them and a scientific study to conserve these sparrows by the state forest department and Ela Foundation shows encouraging results on nest boxes. According to researchers who conducted the study from June 2017 till February this year, the acceptance rate and breeding success of house sparrows is really high if nest boxes of appropriate design and dimensions are offered where they are present.

This small bird is under threat due to rapid urbanisation, depriving the sparrow of its natural habitat. Considering their decline due to various reasons, mainly lack of appropriate nesting sites, the forest department took up the pilot project with an aim to prevent the extinction of sparrows.

“We trained 1,100 forest officials, individuals, NGOs to set up these artificial nest boxes, which are made of a particular type of processed wood, wood shavings and paper mache. While 634 people registered to set up these nests across 12 major sites and smaller ones across Pune city and district, Nashik, Nagpur, Chandrapur, Sawantwadi, Dodamarg, Palghar, Shahapur, Kundal and others.

“Of these the team actively monitored 390 nests for breeding biology,” Dr Satish Pande, founder of Ela Foundation and principal investigator of the study, told The Indian Express. The study found as high as 84.8 per cent acceptance rate of the nests by the house sparrows while other species like Brahminy Starling, Common Myna, Magpie Robin, Spotted Owlet, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Indian Robin and Five Striped Palm Squirrel also actively used these nests. There were 146 breeding attempts by the house sparrows and 389 eggs were laid. The breeding success by the house sparrows at the nests was 72.6 per cent, said Dr Pande while releasing the report ahead of World Sparrow Day that is observed on March 20.

Citing his experience of putting up three to four such artificial nests at Kodit village in Saswad tehsil of Pune district, general practitioner Dr M N Mahajan said that the project’s success lay in the fact that the eggs were hatched in these nests and chicks fledged in the first or second attempt and later flew away. With concrete walls, glass facades, lush lawns, ornamental exotic trees with no fruits or grain farms, the poor sparrow seems doomed but this project shows that there is a high acceptance rate for these nests among sparrows, Dr Pande said.

“It is the first time that we have collated data on the behaviour of the parents and the nestling during the breeding period. This gives us information for the effective conservation of this species,” a forest department official said, adding that a working plan can be based on the data from the present study.

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