Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sparrows : some interesting facts

True sparrows, the Old World Sparrows in the family Passeridae, are small passerine birds. As eight or more species nest in or near buildings, and the House Sparrow and Eurasian Tree Sparrow in particular inhabit cities in large numbers, sparrows may be the most familiar of all wild birds.Fortunately, they are still found in many parts of the world. They are also one of the oldest companions of human beings and have, over a period of time, evolved with us.

 The House Sparrow was one of the most common birds in the world but in the past few years, this bird has seen decline over much of its natural range in both urban and rural habitats. The decline of the House Sparrow is an indicator of the continuous degradation of the environment in which we live.

The First World House Sparrow Day was celebrated in different parts of the world on 20 March 2010. It created a global awareness-raising campaign highlighting the need for the protection of the House Sparrow and its habitat.

The rationale of having a event is not only to celebrate the event for a day but to use the day to bring together all the individuals and organisation working on the conservation of House Sparrows and urban biodiversity on a common platform. With the help of the website we aim to build a network which can result in better linkages of like minded people. In the long term its an effective way to carry out advocacy, do collaborative research and form national and international linkages.

The idea of celebrating World House Sparrow Day came up during an informal discussion over tea at the Nature Forever Society's office. The idea was to earmark a day for the House Sparrow to convey the message of conservation of the House Sparrow and other common birds and also mark a day of celebration to appreciate the beauty of the common biodiversity which we take so much for granted.

Still curious? Check out the following links for more information on the House Sparrow.

Old World sparrows in literature are usually House Sparrows.
In the Gospel of Mary Anna, Mary's mother, sees a sparrow before she laments to God.
The Greek poet Sappho in her "Hymn to Aphrodite", pictures the goddess's chariot as drawn by sparrows.
The Roman poet Catullus addresses one of his odes to his lover Lesbia's pet sparrow (‘Passer, deliciae meae puellae...’), and writes an elegy on its death (‘Lugete, o Veneres Cupidinesque...’).
In the New Testament, Jesus reassures his followers that not even a sparrow can fall without God's notice, and that their own more significant suffering is certainly seen and potentially forestalled or redeemed by God (Luke 12:6; Matthew 10:29). This passage is referenced in the hymn "His Eye Is on the Sparrow".
The Venerable Bede's (8th c.)"sparrow in the hall" episode describes the moment of transition between Anglo-Saxon pagan and Christian eras. Ecclesiastical History of the English Church And People.
In Phyllyp Sparowe (pub. c. 1505), by the English poet John Skelton, Jane Scrope's laments for her dead sparrow are mixed with antiphonal Latin liturgy from the Office of the Dead.
In Hamlet by William Shakespeare, as Hamlet faces his tragic fate, he says, "There's a special providence in the fall of a sparrow". This presumably refers to the New Testament quotation shown above.
In the Daphne du Maurier short story "The Birds", sparrows are one of the small birds that attacked the children in their beds.
In the Redwall series of fantasy novels sparrows are portrayed as fierce fighters; the main sparrow character is Warbeak.
In The Dark Half by Stephen King sparrows are the bringers of the living dead.
Sparrows are also mentioned in the poem "The Trees are Down" by Charlotte Mew: "They must have heard the sparrows flying".

Mao’s Campaign to Kill Sparrows

The Great sparrow campaign (Chinese: 打麻雀运动; pinyin: Dǎ Máquè Yùndòng) also known as the Kill a sparrow campaign (Chinese: 消灭麻雀运动; pinyin: Xiāomiè Máquè Yùndòng), and officially, the Four Pests campaign was one of the first actions taken in the Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1962. The four pests to be eliminated were rats, flies, mosquitoes, and sparrows.

The campaign was initiated by Mao Zedong, the first President of the People's Republic of China. Sparrows were included on the list because they ate grain seeds, causing disruption to agriculture. It was decided that all the peasants in China should bang pots and pans and run around to make the sparrows fly away in fear. Sparrow nests were torn down, eggs were broken, and nestlings were killed.

Initially, the campaign did improve the harvest. By April 1960 the National Academy of Science found that sparrows ate insects more than seeds. Mao declared "forget it", and ordered the end of the campaign against sparrows.[1] By this time, however, it was too late. With no sparrows to eat them, locust populations ballooned, swarming the country and compounding the problems already caused by the Great Leap Forward and adverse weather conditions, leading to the Great Chinese Famine in which around 30 million people died of starvation.
Revived campaign

In June 19, 1998, a poster was spotted at Southwest Agricultural University in Chongqing, "Get rid of the Four Pests". Ninety-five percent of households were ordered to get rid of four pests. This time, cockroaches were substituted for sparrows. A similar campaign was spotted in the spring of 1998 in Beijing. This time, people did not respond to either of these campaign style approaches, as they were already fond of killing the said four pests, most especially cockroaches.

Cultural influence

In the TVB drama series Rosy Business a peasant came up with the idea of killing the sparrows to improve agriculture output. It was meant to be a prank used to trick the peasant owners into starving to poverty.

In 2006, the Los Angeles post-rock band Red Sparowes released the album ' Every Red Heart Shines Toward the Red Sun' based on the events.

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