Tree sparrows at Port Mulgrave

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Large parts of the National Trust’s land at Port Mulgrave are covered in blackthorn. The protection offered by these spiny thickets make them ideal homes for small birds like dunnocks, yellowhammers and chaffinches. There’s one quite special bird that likes to call the scrub home too.

Tree sparrows can often be heard chirping from the bushes. These attractive little birds have suffered a severe population decline over recent years. The RSPB estimate that the UK’s population decreased by 93% between 1970 and 2008, so we need to do everything we can to help them.

Tree sparrows would usually nest in cavities in trees. As there aren’t any large trees at Port Mulgrave we decided to install some nest boxes in 2011. We got one of our volunteer groups to construct some ‘sparrow terraces’. Tree sparrows are social birds that like to nest in colonies, so these special boxes are just the job. Because of the lack of trees we had to bring our own posts to attach them to. Happily the sparrows liked their new homes and several pairs used them to raise young in the first year. 

If you want to spot a tree sparrow, look out for a bird that looks similar to a house sparrow, but has a chestnut coloured cap and a black cheek patch.