Great sparrows are rather social animals. They live in large groups for the entire year, making in colonies which provide them a secure environment for breeding and feeding. Most of the activity in a colony is based on feeding tactics. The first method is to search food for themselves. But sometimes, sparrows tend to exploit the food discovery from another member of the colony and steal the food.
Pest control campaign designed by Mao Zedong in1958 was responsible for one of the greatest bird massacres of the history. At the time Great sparrows were blamed of eating the crops and proclaimed as a source of famine in rural areas. Most of the government campaigns were based on the mobilisation of the rural communities who were viewed as a vital resource.
The millions of Chinese people were mobilized to eradicate the birds as the campaign continued. Peasants were instructed to kill sparrows by any means neccessary. Sparrow nests were torn down, eggs broken and nestlings were killed. In essence, the organized actions were too effective in killing sparrows and natural balance in the environment was soon disrupted.
Great Chinese Famine rises
Unplanned result from the Great Sparrow campaign was swarms of locusts. Locusts coupled with bad weather and the Great Leap Forward campaign led to the Great Chinese Famine. Instead of farmers working in the fields, millions of people were ordered to work for the local industry. Farmers were forced to abandon all private food production but the newly formed agricultural communes planted less land to grain. At that time grain was the source of more than 80% of China's food energy. Food shortages became everyday occurrence.
China was soon in the middle of the world's largest famine between the spring of 1959 and the end of 1961. The inevitable results were land shortages, famine, and an increasingly impoverished rural population. Heavy taxes together with inflation and greedy local officials additionaly worsened the national crisis. Estimates show that over 30 million Chinese starved to death and about the same number of births were lost or postponed.