High numbers of tree sparrows are found in the Lough Neagh Wetlands. However, it is not clear exactly how many there are. The species has declined by up to 95% throughout Britain & Ireland largely due to changes in farming practices. One theory which explains the high numbers found in the wetlands is that the grassland habitats around Lough Neagh provide the seeds that the birds require in winter while the aquatic invertebrates found along the waters edge and the insects found in the grassland, are an important food source for nesting birds in spring and summer.
Survey work is on-going to find out more about the best locations for the species in the Lough Neagh Wetlands, and what makes these places special for the birds. Once the information becomes available, it will help us do more for the tree sparrow in the Lough Neagh Wetlands and elsewhere.
Most of the best sites for tree sparrows are near water. These include farmland along the shores of Lough Neagh and Lough Beg, as well as farmland along the major rivers that flow into the Lough.
One of the feeding stations being monitored as part of the Tree Sparrow Project
The results from the ongoing survey work will be available in 2008, which should confirm the range and extent of the tree sparrow population in the Lough Neagh Wetlands. In the meantime, 700 tree sparrow nest boxes have already been erected by volunteers around Lough Neagh, and 70 feeding stations have been set up to help the birds cope with the shortage of food during mid to late winter.
Tree Sparrows feeding at one of our feeding stations
Some of the best places to see tree sparrows in the Lough Neagh Wetlands include the RSPB Nature Reserve at Portmore Lough and Cranfield Point along the north shore of Lough Neagh. Most other sites are on private farmland where access is restricted, and where permission required from landowners. Some of the best sites on private farmland include the southern area of Lough Beg and the area around Kiltagh Point on the west shore of Lough Neagh.
Most of the feeding stations located around the Lough Neagh Wetlands should begin to attract high numbers of birds in winter. Most of these sites are also on private farmland and access is also restricted, but information will be made available in late 2007 / early 2008 about the location of a select number of feeding stations where access will be possible to those wishing to watch and record these birds.
To report tree sparrows seen in all areas of the Lough Neagh Wetlands please go to http://www.loughneagh.com/tsproject.html.
Habitat for Tree Sparrows
Following on from the success of the Lough Neagh Wetlands Tree Sparrow Project, the Lough Neagh & Lower Bann Biodiversity Officer is now concentrating on the creation of suitable habitats to help the tree sparrow expand its range from the shore of the Lough.
To accompany thsi initiative, "Tree Sparrows in the Lough Neagh Wetlands, A guide for farmers" has just been published. Click on the link below to download a copy.
Tree Sparrows in the Lough Neagh Wetlands - Outside Cover
Tree Sparrows in the Lough Neagh Wetlands - Inside Cover
Report Tree Sparrow Sightings