All of a twitter over Twite in Nidderdale
Recently, an article in The Guardian tried to blame the continuing decline of the Twite – or Pennine finch – on grouse moor management. These small finches like to nest in moorland fringe areas among long heather and bracken, and according to the Guardian article, the loss of tall heather and less wild seed in these areas are the reason for these birds’ continuing decline.
How odd, then, that this small brown bird has got local birdwatchers and twitchers 'all of a twitter' in Nidderdale. With reports coming in of flocks of up to 40 twites, and one of the moorland gamekeepers seeing a flock of at least 20 birds several times this week, this is good news for the Twite.
A small brown finch which lives and breeds on our moorlands and in bye fields on the moorland edges, it was once a common bird of the uplands. Twite are now red listed on the BOCC4 list due to a long term and continuing population decline of up to 75%, despite efforts from the RSPB through their Twite Recovery Project. Twite feed on seed all year round and plants such as Dandelion, Common Sorrel and Hawkbit – alongside other traditional hay meadow plants – are vital for year-round food, including at nesting time to feed young chicks in the nest. Twite, unlike many other birds, do not change their diet when breeding to include protein rich insects for chicks.
It's fantastic to see that how we manage our moorland fringes is benefitting this declining finch and with an increase from the 12 birds seen last year in the Nidderdale area to 40 this year, it's obviously working well. Alongside effective predator control in spring – which helps all our moorland ground nesting species – as well as game cover crops providing an additional food source year round for these seed eating birds, we hope these finches continue to thrive in the uplands.