Robert Mair sent the following to the Editor recently: “I took some pictures of Tree Sparrows on a bird feeder in my garden in Newtongrange. We get plenty of House Sparrows but Tree Sparrows are less common.”
Firstly, well done to Robert for noticing the difference. Tree Sparrows at first glance are very similar to the dirt common House Sparrows. Tree Sparrows on the other hand are smaller, neater, more handsome and much scarcer. In fact they are a “biodiversity action species”, one of the species which is so reduced in numbers we have a legal duty do all we can to assist it. Other than encouraging them at our feeders, we can also greatly assist Tree Sparrows by the provision of nest boxes, which they will readily take to, so long as the entrance hole is 4cm or so. One of my clients, Torness Power Station, has done exactly that. At least one, maybe two of their nest boxes was occupied by Tree Sparrows all summer. This is because Tree Sparrows are multi-brooded and will rear one family after another throughout the summer. It seems at least three broods were reared. I have given them another nest box only a couple of feet above the occupied one, as Tree Sparrows like to nest colonialy.
So my advice to Robert and Julie is, get yourselves one or two Great Tit sized nest boxes and have them in place for spring.