Tree sparrow project – species status

In the UK the tree sparrow is on the red list of birds of conservation concern and whilst there are positive indications of a rise in numbers including at bird feeders in both rural and suburban areas there is much work still needed to firmly establish this species in a number of areas where it either only occurs occasionally or has been lost from altogether.

The UK tree sparrow population suffered a severe decline, estimated at 93 per cent between 1970 and 2008. However, recent Breeding Bird Survey data is encouraging, suggesting that numbers may have started to increase, albeit from a very low point (RSPB website accessed 28/10/15).

BBS (Breeding Bird Survey) data indicate a significant increase since 1994, but it should be remembered that, for every tree sparrow today there were perhaps around 20 in the 1970s, and any recovery therefore has a very long way to go (BTO website accessed 28/10/15).

For further information on population sizes, trends and distribution visit the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) website page on tree sparrows by following this link https://blx1.bto.org/birdfacts/results/bob15980.htm

Range contractions have taken place notably in the south west and south of Britain and distribution is clearly linked to lowland areas, see the National Biodiversity Network Atlas entry at https://species.nbnatlas.org/species/NHMSYS0000530539#overview

In the context of the Yorkshire Dales National Park we obviously sit within the Pennine uplands and along with other upland areas such as the North York Moors and the Lake District the occurrence of tree sparrows are low and patchy mainly due to the nature of the habitats and landscapes.

Despite these restrictions to the distribution of tree sparrows all of these upland areas have a range of landscape features in the form of valleys and dales which link lowland areas in to the upland landscape. Data and our own experience and observations show that tree sparrows will spread in to the valleys and dales where suitable conditions exist.

Ensuring that suitable conditions exist for tree sparrows to move in to the dales and establish sustainable populations requires an understanding of the factors that make a landscape suitable for these birds and this is discussed in the section on habitats.

Still summer’s song beats in my blood Alan Hartley

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