Urban and Wildlife Action Plan

Priority Species: Song Thrush, House Sparrow, Starling, Hedgehog, House Martin, Swift

1. Determine the current distribution and status of urban birds and hedgehogs.
2. Encourage suitable management of urban habitats to maintain populations of urban birds and hedgehogs.
3. Promote wildlife-friendly gardening in urban and sub-urban areas.
4. Develop urban habitat networks with sufficient unmanaged space to support viable populations of hedgehogs in urban areas. 

House Sparrow Targets
Vision Statement: To maintain the current distribution and population of house sparrow through the Durham area

Target Type Unit Value
1. To maintain the range of house sparrow in the Durham BAP area. maintain occupied BBS squares 15 squares, 48.4%

Song Thrush Targets
Vision Statement: To maintain a stable and sustainable population of song thrush and to increase its range within the DBAP area.

Target Type Unit Value
1. To maintain the range of song thrush in the Durham BAP area. range occupied BBS squares 20 squares 64.5%

Starling Targets
Vision Statement: To increase the population of starling to more sustainable levels

Target Type Unit Value
1. To maintain the wintering population of starling in the Durham BAP area. maintain roost counts tbc

Hedgehog Targets
Vision Statement: To have sufficient linked hedgehog habitat to allow movement and dispersal in cities, towns and rural areas. To better understand hedgehog requirements.

Target Type Unit Value
1. To maintain the population of hedgehog in the Durham BAP area. maintain occupied km squares tbc

Targets for House Martin and Swift are still to be developed

This plan is primarily concerned wildlife, which has an association with gardens and urban and sub-urban areas.  In particular the plan focuses on four species of concern –  song thrush, house sparrow, starling and hedgehog. None of these species are confined to urban areas, but they are commonly seen around towns and villages, and the focus of our efforts to conserve them relies to a large extent on the efforts of individual people who live in these areas. There is a great deal of wildlife that lives in gardens and parks in urban areas, and some species are well adapted to these habitats.  There is also a great deal that urban dwellers, and gardeners in particular, can do for wildlife. This includes planting a variety of plants, not using chemicals in the garden and not tidying up too much.  Excessive tidying is a real problem for wildlife, which is trying to find a place to over-winter. All the species in this plan are in decline nationally, and for a variety of reasons.

Local status

All three birds are on the BTO Red List due to their rapid decline over recent decades. In County Durham the song thrushstarling and house sparrow populations are fairly stable at low numbers. Due to agricultural intensification these species are relying more and more on gardens for nesting sites as well as for a food source. Both the starling and the house sparrow are faring fairly well in County Durham with a steady increase in population figures since 2004. The song thrush however has suffered a slight decline in population figures during the same period. The hedgehog is thought to be in a population nosedive nationally, and particularly in the east of the UK. Researchers at the University of London have estimated a 50% decline in population in the last 15 years. However so little is known about the hedgehog population, population dynamics or the causes of this decline that it is difficult to predict the future for hedgehogs. It is thought that the decline has been largest in the farmed landscape and in urban areas, and that the relatively heterogeneous landscapes of suburbia or the urban fringe may provide the best opportunities for hedgehog survival.


  • Increased agricultural intensification.
  • Loss of hedgerow and associated habitat means loss of foraging ground for hedgehog.
  • Fragmentation of urban habitat and loss of urban wild places means loss of connected foraging habitat for hedgehog.
  • Drainage of damp ground.
  • Depletion of woodland scrub layers and canopy closure.
  • Increase in the use of farm chemicals.
  • Loss of habitat (permanent pasture/mixed farming).
  • Widespread loss of hedgerows – this has led to the reduction in available nesting sites, as for many other farmland birds.
  • Loss of nesting sites and food resources (increased hygiene regulations on farms means that farm buildings are sealed, and the mechanisation of grain harvesting means a reduction in the sparrows access to food.)