RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch - mixed results

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch - mixed results

This year's Big Garden Birdwatch recorded a reduction in sightings of many species of birds that call Britain home. But the hardy house sparrow seems to be doing ok

British birds are struggling it would seem

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds' Big Garden Birdwatch turned 40 this year.  And the findings of our bird data suggests 15 of the top 20 species common to our gardens are in decline, with fewer sightings than in 2018. The count took place in the gardens/outdoor spaces of half a million Brits, who counted 7.5 million birds during the last weekend of January. The number one spot went to the house sparrow, with 1.2 million recorded sightings.

The latest results from the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch reveal a mixed picture for the UK’s garden birdlife, with 15 of the top 20 species returning fewer sighting across the country than in 2018.
Now in its 40th year, the BGB is a chance for people to count the number of birds that visit their garden, helping the RSPB build up a picture of how our birds are doing. 
Held over the last weekend in January, the count saw the house sparrow hold its number one spot while there was a decrease in sightings of wrens and long-tailed tits, two of the smallest species to visit our gardens. Long-tailed tits decreased by more than 27 per cent and wrens by one per cent in 2019 - disappointing as they were counted in particularly large numbers in 2018. Populations of both species may have been affected by last year’s ‘Beast from the East’ as small birds are more susceptible to cold weather. 
The BGB is useful to the RSPB - it first alerted the organisation to the decline in song thrush numbers. This species was a firm fixture in the top 10 in 1979 yet by 2009 its numbers were less than half those recorded in 1979 and this year it came in at 20th in the rankings.
Daniel Hayhow, RSPB Conservation Scientist, says public participation in the counts is vital: 'The survey has shown the increasing good fortunes of birds such as the goldfinch and wood pigeon and the alarming declines of the house sparrow and starling.
'But there appears to be good news for one of these birds. While the overall decline in house sparrow numbers, reported by participants, since the Big Garden Birdwatch began is 56 per cent (1979–2019), in the most recent decade (2009-2019) numbers appear to have increased by 10 per cent, giving us hope that at least a partial recovery may be happening. This year’s survey also highlighted a rise in the number of sightings of redwings and fieldfares on last year’s figures.

The house sparrow remains at the top of the BGB rankings, while the starling keeps the second spot and the blue tit has moved into third place.

To highlight the crisis nature is facing and the loss of over 40 million wild birds from the UK in just half a century, the RSPB is releasing a specially-created track of birdsong called ‘Let Nature Sing’. The single contains some of the most recognisable birdsongs we used to enjoy, but that are on their way to disappearing. A compilation of beautiful sound recordings of birds with powerful conservation stories includes the cuckoo, curlew, nightingale, crane and turtle dove who form part of the dawn chorus choir.
The RSPB is inviting everyone to download, stream and share the single (available 5th April) and help get birdsong into the charts for the first time.