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.
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.
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.
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.
Video footage of Tree Sparrows
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.