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Scottish Water and RSPB Scotland working to increase Tree Sparrow population

20 December 2017

Scottish Water is hoping to help the Tree Sparrow or ‘Spug’ across its sites in Dumfries and Galloway.

The utility was approached by RSPB Scotland for its ideal sites within the land of its water treatment works to install bird boxes to encourage the native tree sparrow to breed.

The bird is currently on the red data list of species on the Birds of Conservation Concern, which means that its status is considered highly threatened. Although there are signs of recovery with numbers starting to rise since 1994, the current population estimate for tree sparrow is just ten percent of what it was in the 1960s.

Over the past few months over 20 bird boxes have been installed at Scottish Water sites in Annan, Dalbeattie, Dalscon, Dumfries, Lochmaben, Lockerbie, Thornhill, and Troqueer. 

Scott Fraser, Scottish Water’s corporate affairs regional manager, said: “When we heard about the plight of the tree sparrow and the suitability of our water treatment sites we were keen to help in any way we could and donated £300 towards the building of nest boxes.”
“We’re hoping the boxes Julia Gallagher and Scottish Water’s senior operative David Dunlop, have set up will make a difference to tree sparrow numbers and we will be keen to find out at the close of breeding season next year if the nest boxes have been a success.

Julia Gallagher, RSPB conservation officer, said: “Our current understanding of where tree sparrows are in Dumfries and Galloway shows the Annan, Nith, Urr and Dee river valleys to be key habitat corridors for wintering and breeding birds.

“Research has shown that the availability of wetlands for nest sites such as rivers, ditches or ponds can increase breeding by providing a rich source of insect food. This is why the location of Scottish Water treatment works in Dumfries & Galloway are ideal places to install nest boxes to attract the tree sparrows for the crucial breeding season.

“We’re hopeful these nest sites will prove attractive to the birds for their breeding season which runs from April to August and we hope to see the population continue to grow and recover in Scotland.”

Scottish Water and RSPB have produced a film of the installation of the boxes.