There have been a few conundrums on this question. I was always under the impression that sparrows have been native species and hence there are many people, not just conservationists, but also common people who are working hard to save these sparrows.
After a lot of push, the sparrows (house sparrows) got endangered tag as this would push the conservation efforts to protect the species.
In the last few months, few people, told me that sparrows are not native species and I was rather appalled by hearing this. And these few were scientists, unfortunately, who did not support me with facts as to why they were not native. I would not believe until the fact is established in a journal or literature.
I went ahead to check my own facts if sparrows were introduced species.
I mailed V Santharam, the most reliable and renowned ornithologist in India and this is what he told me:
Dear Ms Sharada,
As far as am aware the House sparrow is a native of the Indian subcontinent. I do not remember reading anywhere that it has been introduced in India.
Here is an entry from wikipedia:
“The House Sparrow originated in the Middle East and spread, along with agriculture, to most of Eurasia and parts of North Africa. Since the mid-nineteenth century, it has reached most of the world, due chiefly to deliberate introductions, but also through natural and shipborne dispersal. Its introduced range encompasses most of North America,Central America, southern South America, southern Africa, part of West Africa,Australia, New Zealand, and islands throughout the world. It has greatly extended its range in northern Eurasia since the 1850s, and continues to do so, as was shown by the colonisations around 1990 of Iceland and Rishiri Island, Japan. The extent of its range makes it the most widely distributed wild bird on the planet.“
This is further confirmed by the fact that there are some subspecies described from India. (also Wikipedia).
I was more than thrilled receiving this email. Also, on the same day, I had discussed this issue with Mr Sukumaran, who literally taught me bird watching. He checked with his guru, the eminent naturalist Rathnam, who confirmed the existence of sparrows in Tamil Sangam Literature, addressed as il ariyum kurivi (the bird which lives in homes).
After checking and substantiating facts, I am happy that sparrows are our own birds and we must protect them because they are critical indicators of our ecosystem.
Next time, when someone tells you that sparrows are not native, you can refer to this blog post.
I have to thank Mr Santharam and Mr Sukumar for helping me solve this conundrum.