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Workshop provides new homes for tree sparrows in Dumfries and Galloway

Last modified: 25 February 2016

Tree sparrows feeding on ground

Tree sparrows can be differentiated from house sparrows by their prominent black cheek spot

Image: Andy Hay

Schools and youth groups around Castle Douglas and Dalbeattie came together with RSPB Scotland and BSW Timber last week to create new homes for tree sparrows.

The nestbox workshop, organised during the BTO’s National Nestbox Week, ran on 17 February as part of a wider project to help tree sparrows throughout Dumfries and Galloway.

Although similar in appearance to house sparrows, tree sparrows are a much rarer species, which has suffered a population decline of up to 90% in the UK since the 1960s. The most recent national survey suggests that they are now slowly recovering in East Scotland and North-East England, but elsewhere numbers are still low.

RSPB Scotland’s Julia Gallagher, said: “While early signs of a recovery in the tree sparrow population are encouraging, we need to do more locally to help support these great little birds. They’re very much a rural species, and are dependent on farmland and wetland areas for food and for places to live and breed, but we know they’ll happily use nestboxes when they’re provided.

“With all the help from local children, we made 25 nestboxes to send out to farms, schools and rural homes, where we’ve identified existing tree sparrow populations that need a bit of help.

“The workshop wouldn’t have been possible without the generous donation of materials from BSW Timber through their Dalbeattie branch.”

RSPB Scotland is also working with local farmers, landowners and communities, advising on other ways to support tree sparrows, including changing cropping patterns and garden feeding.

Tree sparrows can be differentiated from house sparrows by their prominent black cheek spot, and unlike house sparrows, males and females are virtually identical. They are a hole nesting species and can have up to three broods between April and August. The parents share incubation duties, which last for 28 days, and young birds are fed by the adults on insects and seeds until fledging.

Great places to see tree sparrows locally include RSPB Scotland Mersehead, the National Trust for Scotland’s Threave Gardens and WWT Caerlaverock. You may also be lucky enough to see them at your garden feeders, so look closely next time you spot a sparrow.

How you can help

Nature in the UK is in trouble and some of our more familiar garden species are amongst those suffering serious declines. We can all help by giving nature a home where we live.

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