Kolkata: The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) today launched an online survey inviting inputs from common people to document the decline in population and distribution of sparrows all over the country.
"There is an urgent need to understand the status of our commonest bird, the ubiquitous house sparrow. Only a citizen science programme with mass participation can help in collecting information about it on a pan-India scale," Dr Raju Kasambe, Head of Important Bird Areas Programme of BNHS said.
The project called `Citizen Sparrow` is supported by a number of nature and conservation organizations across India and is available on the website www.citizensparrow.in.
Although it is among the most widely-distributed birds in the world, the number of house sparrows in many places have dropped sharply in the last several decades.
Chirpy, cheerful and charming, sparrows are associated with human habitations, and can live in urban or rural settings.
In the survey, anyone with past or present information about the little bird is encouraged to participate.
Explaining why the survey involves ordinary citizens rather than experts alone, Dr Suhel Quader of the Nature Conservation Foundation says, "Almost everyone knows about house sparrows, so there is a vast store of information available with citizens all across the country. We are trying to document this store of information".
In addition, it is a way to reach out to people from all walks of life -- asking them to share their stories and understanding about these birds, he said.
Participants in the survey are asked to mark locations on a map and give simple information about their sparrow sightings from those locations, including sightings from past years and decades.
With such information it is possible to compare population changes of sparrows in different places, and this is expected to point to particular threats or problems.
Findings from the project are intended to feed into more detailed studies investigating causes of decline, and potential measures for the recovery of sparrow populations.
All information collected through the two-month long survey will remain the public domain for anyone to access and use.