A couple of nights ago, I was watching last year’s extremely popular documentary, March of the penguins. It was bitter-sweet, watching the emperor penguins struggle to make it inland, struggle and take care of their one single egg, struggle and bring up their one single chick, and hard to watch the many chicks that died due to the cold, or lack of food, or predators.
For a moment, I sat up wondering….if a pair of penguins mate just once a year, and have just one chick, and a huge bunch of chicks die, how come the penguin population is still slowly increasing?
And then I smacked my forehead, since the answer was obvious.
So, reader smarter than an eighth grader, here’s the question from middle-school hell. If emperor penguins mate once a year, have one chick each, and there is (exactly) an 80% mortality rate (meaning the chicks die) before the chicks reach adulthood, what must happen in order to ensure that the penguin population remains stable or increases? The answer will be a precise number.
Yesterday, I saw this big, fat sparrow. It was almost big enough to be a pigeon. But that just reminded me of my childhood, and the dozens of sparrows I would see everywhere, in and around my hometown of Bangalore, as well as in Chennai or Hyderabad or other cities I would spend my holidays in. There were sparrows everywhere, and they were perhaps the most common birds in the cities after the ubiquitous crows and ravens. We even had a pair of sparrows try to breed in a rain pipe on our terrace once.
But the last few times I’ve visited India, I can hardly see a sparrow. Perhaps there are none left in the cities.
Where have they all gone? Are our modern houses, which have no nooks or corners for the birds to nest, little disasters for the birds? And why don’t (the few) gardens in Indian cities (both public parks as well as residential yards) have any birdhouses or broken pipes or something the sparrows can nest in?
The cities were a nicer, livelier, more welcoming place with the sparrows around.