British small bird numbers bouncing back: survey

Mar 31, 2011
A blue tit hangs from a branch in Farnborough.Small garden birds which were hit by the long, harsh winter a year ago have bounced back this year, according to results from the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch survey.

Small garden birds which were hit by the long, harsh winter a year ago have bounced back in Britain this year, according to results from the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch survey.

Sightings of goldcrests, the UK’s smallest birds, doubled, long tailed tits increased by a third and coal tits increased by a quarter.

The RSPB says small birds can be particularly badly hit by harsh winters but a good breeding season can help turn around their fortunes, and the survey results suggest this may have been the case in 2010.

Over 600,000 people took part in this year’s birdwatch, a record breaking number watching their garden birds, the society says. Over 70 species were recorded in 300,780 gardens across the UK over the weekend on January 29 and 30.

Among the survey's other findings, more than 7,000 waxwings were recorded in almost 1,000 gardens as the birds came to the UK from Scandinavia in an influx known as a "waxwing winter" which occurs every few years.

House sparrows top the list of commonly seen birds for the eighth year running, but while their numbers were up 10% on last year, they were far lower than they were when the first birdwatch took place in 1979.

The same is true for other birds in this year's top 10 most common species in gardens. Starling numbers increased by a quarter this year to put them into the second spot but overall their numbers have fallen by three quarters since 1979.

Other garden favourites have seen numbers drop in the past three decades, with robin sightings falling by a quarter and blackbirds and chaffinches down by around a fifth since 1979.

Meanwhile, blue tits, great tits, wood pigeons and collared doves are all being spotted in greater numbers than they were in 1979, and the goldfinch, which was not seen in gardens when the survey started, is now the eighth most common visitor seen by householders.

Big Garden Birdwatch co-ordinator Sarah Kelly said: "We were really interested to see how the small birds fared, after such a disastrous last year.

"It appears that many may have had a decent breeding season and have been able to bounce back a little. But we mustn't be complacent. Another hard winter could see numbers back down, so it's important everyone continues to feed their garden birds."

Surveys of found in school grounds by teachers and pupils revealed that blackbirds were the most commonly seen species, spotted in 87% of playgrounds. Starlings, wood pigeons and black-headed gulls were also commonly seen.

Explore further: From dandruff to deep sea vents, an ecologically hyper-diverse fungus

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Feed birds your Christmas leftovers

Dec 27, 2006

Christmas dinner leftovers may be beneficial to the birds in the garden, Britain's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said.

Feed the birds: Winter feeding makes for better breeding

Feb 06, 2008

Keep feeding the birds over winter: that’s the message from research by the University of Exeter and Queen’s University Belfast, published today (6 February 2008) in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters. The study ...

Britain working on new atlas of birds

Nov 04, 2007

The British Trust for Ornithology has begun collecting data from thousands of volunteers for a new atlas of the birds of the British Isles.

Salmonella in garden birds responsive to antibiotics

Jun 02, 2008

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that Salmonella bacteria found in garden birds are sensitive to antibiotics, suggesting that the infection is unlike the bacteria found in livestock and humans.

European birds flock to warming Britain

Jul 30, 2008

Researchers at Durham, the RSPB and Cambridge University have found that birds such as the Cirl Bunting and Dartford Warbler are becoming more common across a wide range of habitats in Britain as temperatures rise.

Recommended for you

Of bees, mites, and viruses

10 hours ago

Honeybee colonies are dying at alarming rates worldwide. A variety of factors have been proposed to explain their decline, but the exact cause—and how bees can be saved—remains unclear. An article published on August ...

Genetically tracking farmed fish escaping into the wild

Aug 20, 2014

European sea product consumption is on the rise. With overfishing being a threat to the natural balance of the ocean, the alternative is to turn to aquaculture, the industrial production of fish and seafood. ...

France fights back Asian hornet invader

Aug 20, 2014

They slipped into southwest France 10 years ago in a pottery shipment from China and have since invaded more than half the country, which is fighting back with drones, poisoned rods and even chickens.

User comments : 0