Habitat use by breeding Tree Sparrows Passer montanus

Authors


*Corresponding author. Email: rob.field@rspb.org.uk

Abstract

Tree Sparrows Passer montanus showed a strong preference for nest-sites adjacent to wetland habitats, and avoidance of sites on intensively managed mixed farmland distant from Rutland Water. A variety of wetland edge habitats were frequently used by foraging adult birds when provisioning nestlings, and invertebrate prey of aquatic origin was frequently recorded in chick diet. We suggest that the wetland edge habitats at the study sites played a key role in providing adequate diversity and availability of suitable invertebrate prey to allow successful chick rearing throughout the long breeding season of this multi-brooded passerine. It is possible that large areas of formerly occupied farmland in the UK no longer provide these invertebrate resources due to the effects of intensification in the late 20th century. There was no evidence that the availability of supplementary seed food within 1 km of the nest-site influenced nest-site choice, or affected productivity. It is probable that the importance of seed food resources to the persistence of Tree Sparrow populations operates on a larger spatial scale than that tested in this study, due to the greater mobility of Tree Sparrows in the non-breeding season, when seed resources are most likely to be a key limiting factor. When considering conservation management aimed at recovering breeding populations of Tree Sparrows, the key resources of seed food, invertebrate food and nest-sites must be made available at appropriate spatial scales.

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