The twite (Carduelis flavirostris) is a small, brown finch with streaky markings and a stubby bill that is native to Britain and Ireland.  Fifty years ago twites bred in at least 12 English counties but recent surveys of twites in England have reported very worrying declines and it is now included on the red list of birds of conservation concern.

Most of the English twites are now largely confined to the South Pennines. The breeding population here has declined by over 90% over the last 20 years.

Twite breed at Cemex’s Dove Holes Quarry in the High Peak. The population only numbers around five pairs and is fragile due to its small size and isolation from other twite colonies. However, their presence at Dove Holes presents a real opportunity for the other quarries to play a key role in their conservation.

How your quarry can help

Sympathetic management and habitat creation in active and restored quarries may help the birds expand their population and range in Derbyshire – enabling them to move out across the landscape and recolonise former areas. There are a number of simple and cost effective measures to choose from:

Nesting habitat

Twite will nest happily on cliff ledges and bare faces in quarries. At Dove Holes, the birds use the numerous fissures and holes within the extensive bare cliff faces. Twite can also nest close to the moorland edge, usually in plant leaf litter under small patches of bracken or in tall heather or bilberry.

  • Retain areas of exposed rock faces and fissures, away from quarry operations. Keep these clear of vegetation.
  • Maintain patches of bracken, particularly on steeper slopes as twite will often nest under these.

Food sources

Twite feed almost exclusively on seeds and require a constant supply of seeds throughout the breeding period. Twite-friendly food sources include dandelion and coltsfoot in spring; common sorrel and annual meadow grass in summer; plus yellow rattle and purple moor grass. In autumn, hawkbit and thistle are the main sources of seeds for twite.

Hay meadows are an important foraging habitat for twite because they have an abundance of these species.  Disturbed ground can also produce a crop of annuals, which in turn produce copious seeds.

Hay meadow creation (on areas of non-operational land)

  • Identify potential new areas for meadow creation or choose grassland that contains few flowering plant species.
  • Harrow or scarify existing grassland, then sew a seed mix in spring or autumn which includes dandelion, sorrel, meadow grass and autumn hawkbit.
  • These species can be harvested from local meadows where possible, using green hay strewing techniques.
  • In the following years, implement a hay cropping regime – cut and collect in August in order to prolong the seed source and consider light winter grazing if feasible.

Habitat management

  • Delay cutting until late summer to retain late flowering and seeding plants. Prevent encroachment of tufted hair grass by cutting in August. Where applicable, manage areas of heather – another good seed source for twite.

Wild bird seed mixture plot

  • An alternative to creating a hay meadow, create a plot containing plants that produce small seeds, such as rape, kale and linseed.

Disturbed ground and access tracks

  • The edges of access tracks can provide the perfect conditions for a crop of annuals and weeds to grow, producing seeds for twite to feed on.
  • In addition, identify and retain other areas of disturbed ground if annuals are noted growing.
  • Access tracks also provide an important source of grit for the birds, which aids their digestion.
  • Twite will also drink and bathe in shallow puddles along access tracks.

Supplementary feeding

  • At Dove Holes, the staff provide additional food for the twite in the form of nyjer seed. From April onwards, scatter one cup of nyjer seed per week along a less-used section of access track or bare ground.

For further information and for site-specific advice, please contact the Nature After Minerals team: or call 01767 680551.

The information set out within this advisory sheet in no way constitutes legal or regulatory advice and is based on circumstances and facts as they existed at the time Nature After Minerals compiled this document. Should there be a change in circumstances or facts, then this may adversely affect any  recommendations, opinions or findings contained within this document