3 ISSUES FOR JUST £3 Subscribe to Lancashire Life today click here

Willow tits - the official bird of Wigan

PUBLISHED: 14:06 02 January 2013 | UPDATED: 23:51 23 October 2015

Willow tits - the official bird of Wigan

Willow tits - the official bird of Wigan

Rugby league, pies and now willow tits. Is there no end to Wigan's fame, asks Alan Wright of the Wildlife Trust

A former industrial heartland is now proving to be the perfect habitat for the willow tit, a bird whose population has been devastated over the past 30 years.


Famous for heavy industry, dirt, dust and miners’ strife, the Lancashire coalfield is an environmental haven for this tiny bird threatened with extinction.


More than 10 per cent of the UK’s 5,000 willow tits live in the area around Wigan, St Helens, Warrington and Chorley. And this is critical as nationally the UK population has fallen by 90 per cent in the past 30 years placing it on the red list.


Lancashire Wildlife Trust is working to protect the habitat of these  wonderful black, white and brown birds and this work centres on the wetlands which dominate the countryside around Wigan.

Its work with the council and leisure trust is making major changes to the industry scarred land much of which will help protect this bird, which is smaller than a sparrow.


The willow tit has suffered one of the largest declines of any bird species in the UK, with numbers plummeting by nearly 90 per cent between 1970 and 2011. The Wildlife Trust’s Mark Champion says: ‘The main population centre in the region is Wigan and stretches down to Woolston
Eyes, adjacent to the Manchester Ship Canal in Cheshire and Yarrow Valley and Hic Bibi in Chorley. You could actually say it is based on Rugby League territories around Wigan, St Helens and Warrington.’

Mark, who has worked in Wigan for 13 years, believes there is another link between willow tits and his adopted town.


With a twinkle in his eye, he said: ‘The female birds are similar to Wigan women. They are the dominant partners in the relationship, choosing a mate and fighting off rivals. When the going gets really tough females will get their chosen males to fight each other. They really should be the
official bird of Wigan!’


Mark admits the habitat is a problem as much improvement work in Lancashire involves planting trees and creating canopies, much loved by most other species. He said: ‘Most habitat work involves clearing scrub and planting trees like ash and oak, but willow tits do not like this. They prefer the scrub where they build there own nest hole by digging into
rotten wood in the soft timber tree stumps, less than a metre from the
ground.


‘We really need to remember the willow tit when we are improving habitats in woodland. Of course we want to create areas for the other birds but not at the expense of a unique sub-species of bird which you will not find anywhere else In the world. We must ensure we are not contributing to another extinction – this time on our own doorsteps.’


Flash creatures

Willow tit habitat can be found by entering Wigan Flashes nature reserve at Carr Lane and walking along the path by the side of Hawkley Hall School. They return to nesting areas and use the same stumps to nest.


The birds can be seen among flocks of other tits and finches in winter but they are less inclined to join group like other tit species. Their diet includes moths, bugs, beetles and spiders,  occasionally using bird feeders in winter

0 comments

More from Out & About

Thu, 00:00

Keswick really is a gem of a town – just ask anyone from jeweller Brian Fulton to mountaineering legend Sir Chris Bonington

Read more
Keswick

Behind the ancient sandstone facade of Browsholme Hall is a remarkable ethos of 21st century sustainability and care for the environment.

Read more
Bowland
Wed, 18:21

A circular walk which skirts the Lune estuary and takes in the Lancaster Canal and the railway line.

Read more
Tue, 00:00

From cyclists to star-gazers, Bowland is attracting more visitors. It’s Hetty Byrne’s job to ensure they have fun without harming the environment

Read more
Bowland

The town has shown a lot of bottle to bounce back from a national mocking. Now, its football team and its high street are on the up

Read more
Wednesday, August 8, 2018

People of all ages are doing their bit to ensure Croston retains its place as one of our favourite villages

Read more
Croston
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Get away from it all and hit the heights with these great (but challenging) Lakeland rounds

Read more
Lake District
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Pete Tasker has celebrated 30 years with the National Trust.

Read more
Beatrix Potter
Monday, August 6, 2018

A newly launched loyalty card means supporting local businesses is all the rage

Read more
Lytham
Thursday, August 2, 2018

After years of damaging peat extraction Lancashire’s mosslands are being restored. The Wildlife Trust campaigns manager Alan Wright visits two – Cadishead Moss and Little Woolden Moss in Salford

Read more
Monday, July 30, 2018

Ramsbottom may have become a property hotspot and a foodie destination in recent years, but thing that remains a constant is the wonderful walking landscape right on its doorstep.

Read more
Ramsbottom
Monday, July 23, 2018

Huge swathes of Lancashire countryside have been destroyed by fires which have wiped out whole ecosystems

Read more
Bolton
Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Handmade and homegrown are the key to success at these Burscough businesses, writes Rebekka O’Grady

Read more
Monday, July 16, 2018

Water vole numbers have plummeted in the last 10 years caused mainly by a 30 per cent decline in their habitats. The Carbon Landscape’s Katie Chambers goes on a search for these rare mammals.

Read more
 
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy



Subscribe or buy a mag today

Local Business Directory

Lancashire's trusted business finder

Property Search