Slightly smaller than a House Sparrow and also less associated with human habitation, the Tree Sparrow is a bird of woodland edges and hedgerows. Along with its smaller size and generally different habitat, Trees Sparrows are easy to distinguish from House Sparrows by their black spot on each cheek. In addition, both sexes are virtually identical. In gardens but only in certain parts of the UK, Tree Sparrows can fairly easily be attracted to hanging tube seed feeders.

What sound does a Tree Sparrow make?

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Video footage of Tree Sparrows

Tree Sparrow nesting and breeding habits

Tree Sparrows, as the name suggests, nest in holes in trees. They’ll also use holes in walls and banks, and there are records of them occupying holes within Sand Martin colonies. Nest boxes will also be used, with the ideal hole size being 28mm (locate the box out of direct sunlight and about 2 metres off the ground). The nest is a rather untidy structure consisting of twigs and plant stems, and lined with feathers or other soft material which is available. Two to three broods are normal with 5-6 eggs in each. Both sexes take part in the nest building, incubation and feeding the young birds.

Tree Sparrow history and population trends

The trend for Tree Sparrows over the last forty years or so has been a very sad one, with a massive decline in numbers – albeit the population has gone through a small recovery since the mid-1990s. None the less, for every Tree Sparrow now there were probably 30 in the early 1970s.

Behaviour traits of Tree Sparrows

A gregarious species and especially outside of the breeding season, in the winter months Tree Sparrows will often form fairly large flocks which may include House Sparrows and different species of finch. Historically, stubble fields were a key winter feeding ground and where the mixed flocks could be observed, with the loss of this habitat due to modern farming practices being a likely contributory factor in the species’ decline.

Tree Sparrow diet and food

Seeds, grain, insects and insect larvae makes up the main diet, with much of this food taken on or near the ground. Despite this, Tree Sparrows will readily come onto hanging seed feeders, and have a particular liking for red millet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Tree sparrows visit gardens?

Yes, Tree sparrows do visit gardens, though as the species is very localised and typically doesn’t travel very far, it will only be seen in areas where there is an established population – which is anyway always a rural area and not urban.

Are sparrows protected in the UK?

Yes, both Tree and House sparrow are protected by law in the UK, as indeed are all songbirds.

Where do Tree sparrows spend the night?

Tree sparrows spend the night in holes in trees, nest boxes and also hedgerows.

Do Tree sparrows nest twice a year?

Tree sparrows usually nest two or three times a year.

Do Tree sparrows leave the UK in the winter?

No, Tree sparrows do not leave the UK in winter.