Tree sparrows

Tree sparrows by David KjaerTree sparrows by David Kjaer

Along with many farmland birds, tree sparrows have suffered a serious decline. It is vital that we do everything we can to help the small populations that are left in Suffolk.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust wants to help tree sparrows by:

  • Providing advice to landowners
  • Monitoring tree sparrow to focus our advice and management.
  • Promoting agri-environment schemes to benefit tree sparrow and other farmland wildlife.

What you can do to help

Like most of us tree sparrows need a home and something to eat.

If you have a garden there are things you can do to help tree sparrows. They need year round feeding and are very fond of millet and canary grass seed in bird feeders. Tree sparrows will nest in boxes with a 32mm hole and preferably 15cm deep as they make deep nests.

If you are a landowner and have tree sparrows present then there are ways of helping them by planting wild bird food strips and providing nest boxes in your hedges. This work can be funded through the Environmental Stewardship schemes.

If you would like advice to help tree sparrows and other farmland wildlife on your land, please call Suffolk Wildlife Trust on 01473 890089 or email us.

Tree sparrow ringing

We are putting small rings on the bird’s legs to help identify individual birds and find out where they are nesting and overwintering. One ring is an individually coded aluminum ring. This enables us to identify

  • The sex of the bird
  • If it was ringed previously and where

In some cases, we are also putting on coloured rings. The principle reason for doing this is so that we can identify individuals from known populations, by simply observing them, and seeing if they move between sites within the County, and or the rest of the UK.

The sequences have to be approved so that there is no duplication with other similar projects across the Country.

The Rings

In Suffolk, the birds have a single colour ring above the metal ring on the right leg – this represents the year in which the bird was first caught. So dark blue for 2009, light green for 2010 and black for 2011.

On the bird’s left leg, a single colour ring or two contrasting colour rings are placed to signify the location at which the bird was first caught. At present these are light green, purple and black.

In the case of two colours it is important to note which colour is positioned above the other.

There are currently 12 location colour codes but this is increasing as new known sites are discovered.

Does it work?

Yes, we have already observed birds at Lackford that have moved there from Ampton for example.
In 2009, 346 adults/fledged birds and 77 pulli (nestlings) were colour ringed at four locations. A total of 423 were colour ringed.
In 2010, were colour ringed at eight locations.
The rings also showed that three more birds have joined the Suffolk population from Yorkshire!

Read a full copy of our tree sparrow report. Published 2012.