House Sparrows From The Fauna Of Delhi

Categories: Animals

The Fauna means the animals of a particular region, habitat, or a geological period. And birds are an important element of an ecosystem.

I have chosen House Sparrows from the fauna of Delhi particularly because it was declared “The State Bird of Delhi” on the 14th of August 2012 by the state government. State government announced the decision after launching a campaign Rise for the Sparrows. The campaign is aimed at conserving the species after a massive decline in them from the state.

With the aim that the new status of the bird is likely to help in its conservation the state government gave House Sparrows this status.

House sparrows are small, stocky songbirds that are ubiquitous almost all over the world. They have thick bills and brown feathers with streaks of black on their backs. These birds prefer crevices and holes in man-made structures rather than naturally occurring nesting sites and are found to live in close proximity with human beings rather than in extensive forests or woodlands.

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House Sparrow is a gregarious bird. They are usually seen in small to medium-sized groups, but may occur in huge numbers.

They are found throughout the Indian subcontinent except Andaman & Nicobar and extreme South. They can be found ordinarily up to about 7,000 feet in the Himalayas.

How do House Sparrows serve to an ecosystem?

Firstly, an ecosystem consists of the biotic components that consist of all the organisms along with the abiotic components that include the physical and chemical factors in a particular locale.

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The biotic and abiotic components interact with each other, during which exchange of energy and cycling of elements take place. Its all the organisms that provide the path for energy flow form a food chain and thus even House Sparrows are an element of such ecosystems. Some ways that they serve in an ecosystem are as follows:

  1. Seed Dispersion
  2. Sparrows mostly prefer seeds of millet, grass, thistle, weed and sunflower seed. However, they also eat fruits and berries. During this process, sparrows spread seeds to places away from the fruit tree. This is important for germination of the seeds, because if the seeds fall close to the parent plant, they would have to compete for nutrition with the mature plant.

    This would reduce the chance of germination of the seed as well as growth of the plant once the seed germinated. By spreading seeds, sparrows help the survival of many plants that are the producers in an ecosystem.

  3. Insects
  4. Although primarily seed-eaters, sparrows are carnivorous and they also feed on small insects and worms such as caterpillars, beetles and aphids. Some of these creatures destroy certain plants. Sparrows keep their population in check; otherwise, the insects would have eaten certain plant species to extinction. Here also sparrows play an important role in preserving the ecosystem.

  5. Food
  6. Most birds of prey, such as eagles and falcons, eat other smaller birds. Snakes, which are also secondary consumers, are known to eat sparrows. For example, sharp-shinned hawks prefer sparrows for food.. Hence by providing food for the secondary consumers, sparrows play an important role in their survival and in preserving the ecosystem. And these secondary consumers further serve the ecosystem.

Vincent (2005) investigated the causes of the decline of the urban house sparrow Passer domesticus population in Britain along an urban, suburban and rural gradient centre on the city of Leicester. His study focused on the factors affecting nesting success and annual productivity of nesting house sparrows. Data collected during 2001-2003 revealed that the territorial males were declined by 28% between 2001 and 2003.

Balakrishnan et al. (2011) studied the distribution, population and nest site characteristics of the House sparrow Passer domesticus in Manjeri Municipality, Kerala from December 2010 - February 2011. They reported that, out of 40 road-transects surveyed, house sparrows were found in all except two transects. However, the nests were not found in 16 transects. House sparrow population and the number of nests in the road-transects were positively correlated to the numbers of buildings with cement-concrete roofs, rolling shutter doors, hotels and rice/ cereal godowns. The number of nests was also positively associated with the number of grocery shops in the transects.

Kurkhade et al. (2013) studied the habitat wise distribution of house sparrow in Parner Tehsil of Ahmednagar District, Maharashtra and reported that the population of house sparrow at different points of the Tehsil was significant due to the agricultural potential, as it supplies green vegetables to mega cities of Maharashtra. Along with green vegetables, Jawar, Bajara, Sugarcane, Wheat and Pulses are the major cash crops of the area that supported the house sparrow population.

Ramachandra and Sudhira (2011) had initiated a shared Google Maps project on ‘Sparrows in Bangalore’ that gathered data from personal field observations and records posted in the birdwatchers mailing list, ‘Bangalore birds’. The effort resulted in about 40 odd locations where house sparrows were ‘still’ found despite notions that among residents in Bangalore that house sparrow was not found in their locality or even ‘extinct’.

Anjan et al. (2010) reviewed the case of the disappearing house sparrow in India and other countries and reported that the house sparrow in London had declined by 71% between 1994 and 2002. In India also the ornithologist have observed sharp decline in house sparrow populations across Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad and other cities in India.

Citizen Sparrow Report (2012) was to gather information about house sparrow population across India and to understand how they changed in recent times. The report says that the sparrows were reported as absent from more locations in India after 2005, compared with the past. Lower numbers of sparrows were reported at more places in the present than in the past report taken in 2005.

According to IUCN Red list of threatened species, the house sparrow population has been declining above 10% in the last three decades in several parts of the world. For this reasons the house sparrow has evaluated as Least Concern (IUCN, 2012).


  • To study the decline rate of House Sparrows in Delhi due to urbanisation.
  • Area of Study

  • New Delhi, India.
  • Methodology

An extensive review of the available literatures was carried out by visiting different government departments, academic institutions and various libraries. The secondary information was also collected by reviewing the literature carried out or supervised by professional ecologists and supported by recognised public or private research funding bodies, in relation to the accepted decline and its causes in the house sparrow population.

Reasons for declining population of house sparrow

Decreasing number of Sparrow in recent times has been detected by research for the following main reasons:

  1. The real estate boom in cities of India has been transforming several old localities into high value concrete jungles. This ultimately leads the unfortunate sparrows in losing their potential safe nesting and breeding sites. Felling of several old trees for the construction of highly modernised, scenic and well lighted boulevards and avenues further reduces potential nesting sites for these smaller birds.
  2. High population pressure in cities with dense crowded residential, no green stretches, it results in lessening breeding opportunities for several erstwhile city wildlife and avian populations including the helpless and hapless house sparrows. Naturally their numbers started falling over the past decades. Moreover, lack of safe nesting sites exposes these tiny birds and their chicks to several predators including cats, crows, raptors, snakes and humans.
  3. Avian and Seasonal Diseases.
  4. Lack of flying spaces.
  5. Shortage of nesting spaces in urban areas, due to urbanisation rise of the high rise concrete buildings.
  6. Predation, especially by Eurasian Sparrow hawks & carnivorous animals.
  7. Inadequate presence of insect food for nestling sparrows also declining insect populations.
  8. Change in agricultural practices; Very high use of pesticides, weedicides & insecticides in agriculture. Feeding on cereals which are grown with aforesaid mentioned kind of practices & excessive use of inorganic chemical fertilisers.
  9. Electromagnetic radiation coming out through various mobile towers, devices emitting radiations.
  10. Vehicular & industrial - air & noise pollution also contribute in declining avian population including Sparrows.
  11. Sparrows may not become extinct, but being resilient, they may migrate to safer zones, feed at public granaries, market places, ports and rail stations, nest at nearby sites and adapt to stabilise their population.
  12. Poaching for its commercial usage including to serve as food for zoo animals and as aphrodisiac drug for humans.

This graph depicting the effects of urbanisation on the House Sparrows is from the year 2006 to 2009.

Conservation status

Passer domesticus (House Sparrow) is protected under wildlife protection act 1972 in India while this species listed as threatened species in IUCN Red Data Book. Concern is being expressed on the declining number of sparrow in the country and the need for protection is being felt. Sparrow protection campaign is being organised in collaboration with citizens in the joint program of Bombay natural history and Ministry of Environment and Forest.

Mohd Dilawar, the winner of environment time magazine 2008 and founder president of Nature For Ever (NFS), tried to conserved sparrow by putting nest shape wooden boxes in plants; which was quite appreciable.

Raghvendra Rao, the WWF officer studding by program of field study of house sparrow from year 1988 in Mysore urban area, population of sparrow is also declining very fast in Central Indian Cities but it can easily be watched in small towns and villages; however none of the study conducted in this area and never tried to conserve the species.

Result and discussion

A house sparrow is associated with human habitation. Being very sensitive to changes in the environment, it is one of the most preferred indicator species of urban ecosystems. A stable house sparrow population indicates a healthy ecosystem for human beings in terms of air and water quality, vegetation and other parameters of habitat quality. Whereas, a declining population of the bird provides a warning that the urban ecosystem is experiencing some environmental changes unsuitable for human health in the immediate future.

Given that house sparrows are perhaps the first wild birds to be closely associated with human settlements; their declining populations may have a lot to convey about the quality of urban environment, something that we need to know.

It is now time for a serious nationwide comprehensive survey to evaluate the true status of the species so that appropriate measures could be adopted for the successful conservation of this declining species.

The United Nations (UN) observes, 20th March every year as the ‘World Sparrow Day’ signifying the global importance of this species. On this note, we are only speculating the possible decline, although not conclusive at this point of time. The measures which could be adopted for conservation are so general in approach and doesn’t require any state of art technology involvement; improving the condition of our environment by reducing all kind of pollution respectively will certainly help.

In recent decade in India, populations of house sparrows have seen a dramatic decline. It is difficult to comment about the actual population decline in India, due to non-availability of any historical data. There is a lack of area- wise data on common birds especially house sparrow. There are no or less figures to map the distribution of decline and understanding its cause.

For the conservation and to fight the decline in population, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Indian Council of Agricultural Research and various NGOs, The Bird Life International, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), and the Sparrow Club are working.

In India over the last few years several campaigns, outreach and awareness programmes, research surveys have been carried out to understand the decline of a species, but little work has been done for its conservation.

Many countries have had bird monitoring programs since a long time and acts as early warning system for bird decline. Perhaps if there had been a common bird monitoring system in India earlier than its formation, the decline in population of house sparrow had come to notice in the earlier stages.

In India, there remains a huge amount to be discovered about sparrows as we know relatively little about house sparrows in the urban and suburban environment. There is an urgent need to undertake a number of studies, surveys to establish baseline figures, bird habitat relations and identify future actions to reverse declines. There is a bigger need of targeted studies to identify the relative importance of potential key mortality factors including predation; food availability in urban and suburban habitats; building architecture, air quality; pollution; disease transmission etc.

Updated: Feb 13, 2024
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House Sparrows From The Fauna Of Delhi. (2024, Feb 13). Retrieved from

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