Endangered tree sparrow 'thriving' at coastal park

Image source, National Trust
Image caption, Tree sparrows have red-brown crowns and black-and-white cheeks

One of Britain's most endangered birds is now "thriving" at a Tyneside nature reserve, conservation chiefs say.

From just one pair six years ago, there are now 120 tree sparrows nesting at The Leas and Whitburn Coastal Park.

The National Trust described their settlement on the three-mile stretch of land as "remarkable".

It said their numbers dropped by 93% nationally between 1970 and 2008 due to intensive farming which left little grain in fields after harvesting.

The tree sparrows' numbers have grown steadily at the park after two were caught and ringed in 2012.

'Wonderful reminder'

With 84 nest boxes on the site, National Trust ranger Dougie Holden said they are fed both red and white millet as well as canary seed.

He added: "Their settlement in the area is remarkable considering how scarce these beautiful little birds have become in southern and western regions of Britain.

"Their presence is a wonderful reminder of how things would have looked locally 50 or 60 years ago."

The coastal park, formerly home to Whitburn Colliery, has seen woodland copses, wildflower meadows and scrub replacing waste ground and coal spoil.

Tree sparrows are on the British Trust for Ornithology's red list for species which have seen a drop of 50% or more in their UK breeding population.

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