16 of the UK’s top garden bird species suffer decline, finds Big Garden Birdwatch 2021

The annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch shows that 16 of the top 20 small garden bird species have experienced a significant decline since last year’s survey.

A fledgling House Sparrow, The Cotswolds, Gloucestershire, UK

The house sparrow once again kept its top position as the most commonly spotted garden bird, with more than 2.6 million recorded sightings throughout the weekend, and an average of 4.2 birds per garden.

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In second place was the blue-tit, followed by starling. This was the first time that starlings have slid down the rankings since 2010, with numbers down 83% since 1979.

Declines were also seen in greenfinch and chaffinch numbers, with the lowest average for both species ever recorded since the survey began.

chaffinch countryfile expert guide
Common chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) male perched in tree in late winter/Credit: Getty Images

However, Britain’s favourite bird, the robin, saw an 11% increase since last year, and blackbirds, carrion crows, and song thrushes are also on the up.

The survey also revealed a renewed interest in nature during lockdown, with more than one million people, a record-breaking number, taking part in this year’s Birdwatch. This is a huge up-tick from previous years ­– over the first three days of submissions alone, numbers were up 85% compared to the same time period in 2020.

Every year for the past four decades the RSPB has invited the public to grab their binoculars, look out into their own gardens to take part in The Big Garden Birdwatch. Held on the last weekend of January, this UK-wide event is the world’s largest wildlife survey and has been instrumental in identifying both declines and successes amongst our native birdlife.

The RSPB consider this increased enthusiasm for bird-watching a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have been blown away by the enthusiasm with which people have taken part in the Birdwatch this year. Lockdowns have brought few benefits, but the last year has either started or reignited a love of nature for many people, right on their doorsteps”, said Beccy Speight, the CEO of the RSPB.

“This winter has been a bleak ordeal but as the dawn chorus starts to burst into song and the blossom starts to flower from the trees once more, we are emerging from this pandemic a new generation of nature lovers”, added Speight.

Britain’s school children also took part in the RSPB’s Big Schools Birdwatch. The UK-wide survey of birds in school grounds saw over 21,000 school children and their teachers spend an hour in nature counting the birds. Woodpigeon was the most numerous species seen with an average of 9 per school; and was seen in 85% of all schools that took part. Blackbird was a close second with an average of 8 per school.

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For a full round-up of all the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch results and to see which birds were visiting gardens where you live, visit: www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch