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England Twite Recovery Project

Twite, RSPB Balranald nature reserve, North Uist

Issues that have been identified as possibly affecting twite numbers:

Reduced availability of seed, especially later in the breeding season. Typically, twite raise a second brood of chicks in early August, this is not happening in the South Pennines, possibly because there is not enough seed to feed the young on

Reduced availability of suitable nesting habitat, which is primarily mature heather or bracken, which has two years growth or more

Accidental and deliberate moorland fires. Accidental fires often occur through discarded cigarettes, campfires that have not been properly extinguished, or sometimes as a result of managed moorland burning that has become out of control.

Project objectives

  • To halt the current decline in both twite numbers and range and in the medium term to increase the population breeding at existing colonies and to establish breeding at new and/or former sites
  • To increase the proportion of the population having second broods (currently very low), resulting in increased breeding productivity
  • To develop a management plan for each extant twite colony and proactively target habitat intervention within a 2.5 - 4 km radius of the colony
  • Secure the future of the designated breeding sites by bringing the non-designated feeding sites into long-term conservation management agreements

Progress so far

  • Over 338 hectares of land reseeded with twite-friendly food sources (dandelion/common sorrel/autumn hawkbit, plus yellow rattle and locally harvested seed where required). Providing food sources for twite in the early (March-April), mid (May-July) and late (August-September) seasons - thus providing feeding opportunities for the time when twite are in the South Pennines.
  • Completion of baseline monitoring in 2008-2010
  • Botanical and bird surveys carried out in 2013 on selected fields as a mid project survey
  • Raised public awareness of the plight of the twite through school visits, news articles, fetes, fairs and farm events.

Work planned or underway

In 2016, the main focus of work will be on surveying fields which have been reseeded and also monitoring twite numbers.

We will then have a baseline survey (2008-2010), a mid project survey (in 2013) and a final survey (2016) for this part of the project to show the effect of the intervention works which will contribute to the planning of the next phase of the project.

Continuing support of farmers and landowners whose fields are being managed as twite foraging habitat.

Promoting the Twite Recovery Project to local communities and other organisations to help raise awareness of this bird and its habitat.  


68 landowners/farmers have signed up to government-funded schemes for 10 years to help increase food supplies for twite.

Promotion of hay meadow late cutting date (cut once after 15th July – ideally mid to late August) to ensure that seed is available for second broods in July/August.


Who to contact

Charlotte Weightman
Project Officer


Natural England


The project is run and funded as a joint venture by the RSPB and Natural England.

Bird guide