In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Alarm bells ring for the sparrow

Posted by smeddum on June 12, 2009

 

Don Sebastian / DNA Friday,
June 12, 2009

Thiruvananthapuram: The house sparrow might become an endangered species, thanks to microwave radiation from mobile phone towers. A study by a Kerala-based ecological group has shown that the eggs of sparrows nesting on mobile phone towers fail to hatch even after a month, though the normal incubation period lasts from 10 days to a fortnight.

The cause of concern is that the killer towers are among the few nesting options available to sparrows in the bird-unfriendly architecture of modern cities.

“Electromagnetic radiation emitted by towers disturbs house sparrows and other small birds,” said Dr Sainudeen Pattazhy, president, Kerala Environmental Researchers’ Association (Kera). “The radiation is of very low frequency — 900 to 1,800 MHz — and can damage the thin skull of chicks and the shells of eggs.

“Microwaves can interfere with the birds’ sensory abilities and misguide them while they are navigating and preying.”

Kera’s year-long survey found that the number of house sparrows, scientifically classified as Passer domesticus, has come down drastically. In some areas, they are not seen at all. “The birds which started nesting near the towers were found to leave within one week,” Pattazhy said.

He also blames disappearing grasslands, global warming and the widespread use of pesticides for wiping out the food source of birds. He said sparrows are a trusted ally in research since they are well-suited for the study of general biological problems and specific challenges like pest control.

Kera advocates the inclusion of house sparrows in the endangered species list: at present, the birds are listed in the ‘least concern’ category by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

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