'Sparrow man' spreads wings of conservation

Veera Mahesh, a 44-year-old amateur ornithologist of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), is spreading wings of conservation of house sparrow (Passer domesticus) from a tiny town of Jangareddigudem in West Godavari district to various cities in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Gujarat through his most acclaimed experiment with the “artificial wooden nest”.

“In 2009, I installed one wooden box to attract house sparrows in my backyard. However, in early 2014, I heard a pleasant morning call of the house sparrow in my backyard. It reminded me of my childhood, during which I had seen numerous house sparrows in many parts of West Godavari, and realised myself that its number had been dwindled by then,” Mr. Mahesh told The Hindu.

Positive response

Later, Mr. Mahesh launched a serious conservation effort alone, finalising one of his six designs of the artificial nests measuring 10.5 inches in height, seven inches in width and four inches depth inside to erect in the strategic areas.

Since then, the effort continues to provide an artificial safe habitat for the house sparrow population.

“Since 2014, at least 450 artificial nests have been installed; Jangareddigudem (380 nests), Mupparthipadu village in West Godavari (20), Hyderabad (10), Vijayawada (4), Rajahmundry (4) and two each in Visakhapatnam and Gujarat and other villages. People from different parts of the State have started realising the need of conservation of the house sparrow by installing the artificial nests,” said Mr. Mahesh.

In Jangareddigudem town alone, at least 300 house sparrows are being conserved round the year in the available nests as this bird abandons its nest within two years. The nests are supplied free of cost.

Intelligent bird

The artificial nest has been designed by Mr. Mahesh in such a way that it enables the bird to occupy, construct and breed in it. “The house sparrow is so wise that it observes the artificial nest for two weeks before selecting it for living. The couple takes at least two weeks to build its own nest within the artificial nest by arranging grass and feathers (meant to maintain heat required during the incubation period),” he observed.

The BNHS life member notes: “My experiment has gained acceptance both by the house sparrows and the local communities, who cherish to offer grain and rice to those who occupy the artificial nests in their area. I count the birds in all the nests in February-March every year.”

Urban stress

“This March, I sighted not less than 300 house sparrows on a single mango tree in Jangareddigudem town. Such a rare mass sighting is witness for the rise in its population in our town, apart from signalling the need for more nests”, said Mr. Mahesh.

He fears that the rise in the construction activity is leading to a state of stress, in which the bird faces problem in earning nutrient prey, and finds difficult to join the gathering of the other birds of the same species.

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