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England Twite Recovery Project

Twite, RSPB Balranald nature reserve, North Uist

Issues that have been identified as possibly affecting twite numbers:

Reduced availability of seed, especially later in the breeding season. Typically, twite raise a second brood of chicks in early August, this is not happening in the South Pennines, possibly because there is not enough seed to feed the young on

Reduced availability of suitable nesting habitat, which is primarily mature heather or bracken, which has 2 years growth or more

Accidental and deliberate moorland fires. Accidental fires often occur through discarded cigarettes, campfires that have not been properly extinguished, or sometimes as a result of managed moorland burning that has become out of control.

Project objectives

  • To halt the current decline in both twite numbers and range and in the medium term to increase the population breeding at existing colonies and to establish breeding at new and/or former sites
  • To increase the proportion of the population having second broods (currently very low), resulting in increased breeding productivity
  • To develop a management plan for each extant twite colony and proactively target habitat intervention within a 2.5 - 4 km radius of the colony
  • Secure the future of the designated breeding sites by bringing the non-designated feeding sites into long-term conservation management agreements

Key dates so far

  • To date, 74.11 hectares of land reseeded with twite friendly food sources (dandelion/common sorrel/autumn hawkbit, plus yellow rattle and locally harvested seed where required)
  • Completion of baseline monitoring of 2008 - 2010
  • Raised public awareness of the plight of the twite through school visits, fetes, fairs and farm events

Work planned or underway

Surveys of fields on the moorland edge where twite are known to breed to assess levels of food sources.  These surveys are done by volunteers from April – July.

Land preparation and reseeding to take place on suitable fields within 2.5 km of nesting colonies in 2012.

Continue to work with the community to raise awareness of the plight of the twite.

Training content and events for volunteers who help with the Project (see the video below for an example).


36 landowners/farmers have signed up to government-funded schemes to help increase food supplies for twiteso far, with more in the process of coming on board

Where possible, fields shut up early to encourage dandelions for early foraging

Promotion of hay meadow late cutting date (cut once after 15th July – ideally mid to late August) to ensure that seed is available for second broods of twite in July/August


Who to contact

Kerry Gowthorpe
Twite Project Officer


Natural England

Pennine Prospects – The Watershed Landscape Project

Kirklees Council


The role of the Habitat Intervention Officer is funded for 3 years from 2010 by Pennine Prospects through the Heritage Lottery Fund

Bird guide