October 1, 2019
R Gurusamy, a farmer at Mettupalayam, is known as the ‘sparrow man’ for the hundreds of sparrows or ‘chittukuruvis’ that nest in the trees surrounding his house at Gandhiyur area in Sirmugai village. Sparrows are small, plump birds belonging to the Family Passeridae and are native to Europe, Asia and Africa.
Gurusamy tells The Covai Post, “The sparrows started coming about eight years ago when I planted tree saplings around my house. I was raising chickens, so the sparrows would peck at the feed and water that I set out for hens. This continued and many sparrows started coming and nesting in the trees. So I would set out separate feed and water for them. However the recent heavy rains and storms felled some trees and several nests were destroyed. The sparrows became less, but have started returning now that the dry season has started.”
He adds that their chirping and chattering is pleasant and relaxing to hear while working in fields and entering the house. In order not to scare away the birds, Gurusamy and his neighbours, never light firecrackers during Diwali or other festivals and keep temple processions and other celebrations muted. They also do not light bonfires.
His family, wife and two daughters, set out separate feed trays and water baths for the sparrows. He recollects how these birds once saved his life.
“We were asleep, when an elephant trampled some trees, the nesting birds immediately made a loud noise that woke me up and unnerved the pachyderm. It retreated and then my neighbours and I drove the elephant away. Even now my two dogs are alerted by the sparrows’ chirping and will prowl the house even if they hear a small cheep. I have also put up wired fencing to keep away birds of prey like kites and vultures. I always return home every night even if I travel outstation to feed the birds the following day. These sparrows are now an integral part of our family. They are tame enough not to disturb our personal belongings,” says Gurusamy.
1.Sparrows are social birds and like to be near human habitat, are mostly grain, insect and pest eaters. They are among the few birds who bathe in dust, water and snow in groups.
2.March 20 was declared World Sparrow Day since 2008 by the Nature Forever Society in Mumbai. Currently 50 countries celebrate this day.
3.Coimbatore has many sparrow lovers. B Pandiyarajan, a lathe worker at Podanur started the Sparrow Conservation Movement in 2012. He and volunteers have made hundreds of nesting boxes for these birds around Coimbatore. The City Corporation also launched a similar drive on May 2, 2018.