Thursday, September 21, 2017

Are Bengaluru’s sparrows migrating to its international airport?

The sparrows at Bengaluru’s international airport almost made Mohammed Dilawar miss his flight. Early one morning, he was waiting to board a connecting flight to Mengaluru, but as he watched the birds flitting in and out of shops and feeding on crumbs left on the grey tiled floor, he nearly forgot there was a plane to catch.

Dilawar, who is the president of the Nature Forever Society, a nonprofit dedicated to the conservation of house sparrows, tries to get to the airport at least two hours before his flight to watch house sparrows living in their glass-and-steel habitat. A pair of binoculars and a pen in hand, he has even had to ask airport security for permission to watch the birds, lest he seem suspicious.

To Dilawar, and others like him, the seemingly large population of the house sparrow or Passer domesticus at the Kempegowda International Airport is beguiling, not least because of reports that the bird’s population has dwindled in the city centre over the past several years.

“All their ecological needs are met at Bangalore airport,” he said.

Driving up to Bengaluru’s international airport, you’ll first notice its curved glass façade, interrupted by angled pillars that keep the structure grounded. Inside the airport, small crevices are formed on top of beams, around pillars and between slats of skylights that bring natural light into the cavernous space. These nooks, experts say, are ideal for birds like house sparrows, or even crows, to build nests. And although the sparrow population may not be immediately apparent when you walk into the airport, take a moment to listen carefully. Over the low thrum of passengers talking and luggage wheels scraping against the floor, the sound of birds chirping has become an unmistakeable part of the airport’s ambient soundtrack.