Tree sparrows set up home in Lewis

A Tree Sparrow photograph courtesy of Gordon Biggs.
A Tree Sparrow photograph courtesy of Gordon Biggs.

Tree sparrows have been confirmed breeding in the Isle of Lewis again after breeding in 2011, which was believed to be the first time for 25 years.

The birds, which are closely related to the more familiar house sparrow, have taken advantage of some nest boxes that were put in place in Port of Ness at the northern end of the island after RSPB conservation officer, Martin Scott, spotted them feeding young in a garden there last year.

Local birdwatcher Tony Marr said: “We were not sure whether 2011 would prove to be a fluke, so it is great news to be able to confirm that a pair of tree sparrows has taken up possession of one of the new nest boxes and the adult birds are being seen regularly at the box.

“They are a very secretive species and difficult to observe, but we hope to see this pair feeding young very soon. We are planning to put some more nest boxes in place and to keep feeding the birds. I’m pleased to report that the RSPB is contributing boxes and seed to help things along.

“Up to four other tree sparrows have been seen together in the vicinity in recent weeks, although not proved to be breeding, and we hope we can attract them too.””

RSPB conservation manager Stuart Benn said: “Tree sparrows are great wee birds which are very closely associated with agricultural land. Unfortunately, like many other farmland species, they have suffered dramatic population losses in recent years across Britain. That is why it is so encouraging to hear that a small population seems to be re-establishing itself in Lewis.

“The Western Isles are already incredibly important for a number of bird species so it seems entirely appropriate that the islands are providing a home for another charismatic bird.”