Sparrow conservation at the beginning
Sadhana says, “Being a nutritionist is also my passion because serving people has been my ambition. I love people and connecting with them. Counselling about their health gives me immense pleasure and happiness because there is so much ignorance regarding food. I’m currently working for my own clinic at Besant Nagar called “Fitness at home” as a nutritionist and it’s been 25 years of journey. My profession is funding sparrow project.”

She adds, “I started sparrow conservation in 2010. I started distributing nest at Gandhi statue at Marina beach because Gandhi was also a bird lover even poet Bharathiyar for that matter. Both these leaders are close to my heart. At Marina Beach, people used to come for walking so I used to talk to people to host the nest and share my contact number to get their feedback. I had mixed responses – some people didn’t host nests, so no sparrows visited. Some people misused my nest as a milk box, so I came up with the concept that first, you have to earn my nest, I can’t blindly give my nest away. They have to put up a water bowl and grains to attract sparrows. I have people calling from all over the world for nest hosting now. Even on the day of the bomb blast, I got a call from Kashmir. So, people are able to connect with me inspite of their situation. Thank God humanity still exists!”

The idea of sparrow conservation
Talking about how it all started, she says, “I grew up in Perambur and we lived in a 100-year-old house which has a separate enclosure for sparrows and they were part of our life, just like cat and dogs. We had a garden with a variety of fruits and my father never allowed us to pluck them because it was only for birds and squirrels. After marriage, I moved to Besant Nagar and realized that there are no sparrows until my mother pointed out that she couldn’t find one. I also realized that the experience I had as a child, my children never got it, because I failed to realize that sparrows have gone. Our residential buildings are not conducive for them to build a nest. You may ask why sparrow and not other birds? Every creature on this earth is important to maintain the food chain but sparrows represent bird population and they are bioindicators, so the very fact that these birds are missing, shows that there is a serious threat to the environment. They build nests inside our house and they are close to human beings. They are very social and once you gain their confidence they allow you to hand feed them too. We share our house with them and coexist with them for our own wellbeing.”

Sparrows as insect killers
Sadhana adds, “We all are stressed out in this modern age and the sound of sparrow chirps gives positive vibes. On a serious note, mosquitoes are increasing every day leading to vector-borne diseases. So in order to control them, we have to bring back our house sparrows. Besides of course, for our own happiness.”

Myths about sparrow decrease
She says, “I read somewhere that since 1994, the sparrow numbers are decreasing due to radiation from mobile towers but I dismissed the fact that there was no proper nesting place for breeding and roosting. I boldly went ahead and made my first nest. Initially, people discouraged like “will the sparrows come just by placing the nest?” but I didn’t pay heed to their words. I used to take tuition for underprivileged children and in that group, one smart boy took up carpentry as his interest and he made a wooden cage and he fixed it in his house. Within a few days, a couple of sparrows occupied them which was a surprise for me and this happened in 2009. This was a big signal for me to go ahead with my idea.”

“Initially I was not aware of how to create the environment to attract the sparrows. One of my inner wheel club members, Divya Reddy hosted a nest in Gandhi Nagar and within a week, sparrows flew in and I asked her how did they come. She told me that she fixed two water bowls, one for bath and drinking, and sprinkled some grains (preferably foxtail millets) and that’s how she attracted sparrows. In order to retain the birds, just hang the feeder, water bowls, sieves sand for a mud bath and plant some native plants. Change the water every day, don’t fill the nest with anything, and fix the nest at 10feet height,” she adds.

Unknown side of sparrows decline
She says, “People around are not bothered that house sparrows are decreasing, no count or statistics have been done. Only memories remain, how sparrows visit us and fearlessly have grains at home. But our lifestyle is also changed like we get all the well cleaned grains in packed covers at supermarkets. In earlier days, we used to grow native plants like tomato, brinjal, jasmine, Nithyamalli- all these plants were home to insects and worms. These insects and worms were food for sparrow fledgling which is rich in protein. So even if sparrows lay eggs they couldn’t see the day by not getting the right food at the right time. Even films have made people believe that due to mobile radiation sparrows have gone which is not true. Human beings and sparrow’s DNA are the same, so the mobile radiation doesn’t kill but affects the bird navigation skills. Every house should have a sparrow nest like rainwater harvesting.”

Finding the problem from the roots
She adds, “When you connect with nature I’m sure she will help you and answer all your questions. Besant Nagar doesn’t have sparrows at all, but in 2010 we distributed feeders and nests to the people in the Kupams (slum) and very soon they met with success. My family and I together used to collect the plastic bottles offered at weddings which are hazardous to the environment and convert them into bird feeders. I have taken awareness sessions for school children and also engaged them in making bird feeders from waste water bottles because children’s minds are like blind pages so anything imprinted on their minds stays for a long time. Children get excited to see birds feasting at bird feeders. With other’s feedback, I got to know about the correct nesting positioning height and how to attract them because those days I never had support from Google.”

Petting imported birds
She says, “I don’t believe in caging birds and it’s a crime. Birds should enjoy their life in the natural environment. We all experienced lockdown during Covid19 and people went into depression, weight gaining the same applied for birds to so people should stop it. Birds fly continent to continent for various reasons but buying imported birds and petting them in this climate will not survive.

Memorable moments
She adds, “A small boy watched my video on YouTube and told his mother that, “Amma we have to call this aunty to our school to talk about sparrow conservation” also senior citizens call and bless me as they could connect with me. I was almost in tears and it’s overwhelming for me and these are close to my heart.”

Sparrow mission accomplishments
She states, “So far, I have distributed 2150 nest to people. I have also trained the IT people to make a nest out of a shoe box which is more than 1000 so overall I have distributed3000 nest boxes. My target is to give 1 lakh bird feeders. My nests have reached Kashmir to Kanyakumari and have gone to everyone as far as Dubai.”

-By Vinitha Venkatesha