Almost half a million people took part in this year’s RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and discovered some interesting changes among our most popular garden birds, with some species creeping up the rankings.
It’s all change in the top 10, with blue tits in their highest position since the Big Garden Birdwatch began, at number two. The previous occupiers of the second spot, blackbirds, have dropped to number four.
Goldfinches have climbed another place since last year, and now perch at number seven. The robin, which has been as high as number seven in the past 10 years, has dropped back to number 10. And for the first time ever, the great spotted woodpecker has squeezed in at number 20.
Scientists believe that the weather has played a role in the ups and downs in this year’s top 10, as many of the birds were recorded in lower numbers in gardens due to the mild conditions.
Some species, such as blue tits, were likely to be more reliant on food provided in gardens than others, such as blackbirds, which could easily find their favoured foods like worms and insects in the countryside.
Just 10 years ago, goldfinches were in 14th position, but scientists believe that the increase in people providing food like nyjer seed and sunflower hearts in gardens, may have contributed to their steady rise to number seven.
Overall, numbers of species such as blackbirds, fieldfares and redwings may appear to have dropped in our gardens since last year. But in many cases this is not because these populations are in decline, but because these species don’t need to come into our gardens during mild winters due to there being plenty of natural food available in the wider countryside.
However the continuing declines of some species are of greater concern. Numbers of starlings and song thrushes have dropped by an alarming 84 and 81 per cent respectively since the Birdwatch began in 1979.
There is slightly better news for the house sparrow, as the declines appear to have slowed, and it remains the most commonly-seen bird in our gardens. However, it remains on the red list as we have still lost 62 per cent since 1979.
Richard Bashford, Big Garden Birdwatch organiser, says: “2014 was always going to be an interesting Big Garden Birdwatch as the winter has been so mild, and we wondered if it would have a significant impact on garden birds.
“They were out and about in the wider countryside finding natural food instead of taking up our hospitality. The good news is that this may mean we have more birds in our gardens in the coming months because more survived the mild winter.”