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One, two, TREE sparrows

Last modified: 15 June 2011

Tree sparrow chick with BTO and colour rings

A tree sparrow chick showing the red ring

Image: Andy Hay

The brown-capped tree sparrow is the lesser known cousin of the popular house sparrow, but it is far less common and numbers are falling.

Beddington Farmlands in Sutton, south London, is home to the largest single colony of this species in the whole of the south east of England. Tree sparrows are birds of the countryside, so this substantial urban colony is a bit of a puzzle.

What’s even more mystifying is what happens to the five-hundred or so chicks hatched on the site each year. We know they survive and leave the colony, but have no idea where they go.

Beddington Farmlands is a traditional sewage treatment site, but the way we manage sewage has changed and the large settling pools are no longer needed. It means the habitat on site will change.

To help the tree sparrows through this change, we’ll need to do some detective work and will be looking for help to discover where the chicks go and where alternative colony homes could be created.

This year, we've formed a new group called the London Tree sparrow partnership and have fitted red rings to the right leg of every chick hatched. So far that's more than four hundred birds. We’d love to hear from you if you see them.

Download the “How to help tree sparrows” document, on the right, for more information on how you can help.

How you can help

Tell us about your garden and we’ll provide you with tailored wildlife-gardening advice!