WILDLIFE campaigners are being given a chance to weigh in and save East Lancashire’s threatened songbird.

Fewer than 170 breeding pairs of the twite, otherwise known as the Pennine finch, are thought to survive in the UK.

One of their remaining strongholds is the South Pennines, around Burnley and Todmorden, where they winter.

Traditional hay meadows and pastures have lacked foods like dandelions, sorrel and autumn hawkbit though, which has seen the bird’s numbers drop by 72 per cent since 1999.

Now the RSPB, which has led efforts to preserve the endangered twites, is urging nature lovers to chip in and reverse the species’ fortunes.

Not only can kindhearts sponsor their own twite, through a ringing initiative, but they can also support vital feeding stations.

Trials of such stations, near known breeding grounds, resulted in nearly 200 sightings from March to May this year.

Hilary McGuire, an officer for the Twite Recovery Project, ongoing since 2008, said: “The aim of this work is to ensure that twites have a constant supply of food early in their nesting period when it is most needed and natural food is scarce.

“From May to March we had 196 twite sightings, with 25 sightings of colour-ringed birds.

“This information is invaluable in understanding where twites are breeding, their use of food and their survival rates from year to year.”

Plans are now being drawn up for 2020 which will see extra food deposited at the feeding stations in late summer or early autumn, as well as the spring. Twelve farms also participated in a fledgling heavy grazing scheme, designed to promote the growth of dandelions, which will be repeated again next March.

Other previous efforts have seen thousands of autumn hawkbit plants introduced at key locations by volunteers.

Ringing sponsorship is being offered at £25 per twite, with those taking part given an electronic record of their bird and sighting updates, along with background details on the overall project.

Donations are also being sought for the feeding stations, which are stocked with regular supplies of nyjer seeds.

A new officer for the RSPB recovery project, Seonaidh Jamieson, will be in post from January and she can be contacted for further details concerning sponsorship via e-mail at seonaidh.jamieson@rspb.org.uk