Thiruvananthapuram: The chirpy little house sparrows that were dime a dozen in Kerala only three decades ago, are disappearing at an alarming level, a new survey has found.

The survey was held in connection with the World Sparrow Day celebration this week.

The sparrow count has dropped across the state, and the decline seems most pronounced in Kottayam and Ernakulam districts.

Punnen Kurian Venkadath, secretary of the Tropical Institute of Ecological Sciences, who led the survey, was quoted as saying house sparrows were disappearing even in their traditional habitats.

In ten habitats of the sparrows in Kottayam district, a survey conducted in 2012 had found 740 birds, but that number has crashed to a mere 64 this year, underlining the magnitude of the sparrows’ crisis.

One report says that the sparrow count in Kochi in Ernakulam district has dropped from 481 in 2016 to 332 this year.

In Kerala, sparrows once nested atop provision stores that line almost every street in the state, and fed on the grains and other edibles that spilled in front of the shops. Those sights have almost completely disappeared as the tile-roofed retail shops of the past have given way to glitzy concrete-and-glass shops and massive shopping malls.

Over the past few years, an awareness about the dwindling sparrow population has led to many shopkeepers putting up pots on their shop walls to enable sparrows to nest there, but the birds do not seem to have favourably considered such advances.

The high use of pesticides on farms and grains that are thus laced by poisonous chemicals may also have led to the decline of the sparrows, experts say.