Big Garden Birdwatch 2023: how to take part and garden birds to spot

With 1 in 4 birds in serious decline, it's never been more important to monitor the UK's bird populations. Here is our guide on how to take part in 2023, how to submit your results and the best birds to spot in your garden in winter.

Blue tit on branch
Published: February 21st, 2022 at 3:50 am
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The annual Big Garden Birdwatch returns on 27th–29th January 2023 for the UK's largest garden-based citizen science project. Find out how to take part and the best birds to spot in your garden this winter with our handy birdwatch guide.


What is the Big Garden Birdwatch?

2023 marks the 44th RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, which sees keen birdwatchers across the UK join the largest garden wildlife citizen science project by spending one hour tracking the birds they see in their gardens. Last year was the biggest Birdwatch ever, with over one million people taking part and counting more than 17 million birds.

Why take part?

Not only is it a great way to enjoy a spot of winter birdwatching, but it's a vital opportunity for the RSPB to keep tabs on the population of British birds.

In the past 50 years, Great Britain has lost more than 38 million birds. In 2021, 70 new birds species were added to the RSPB's Red List, meaning that 1 in 4 species are under serious threat. The RSPB continue to rely on the help of people across the country to help record the birds they see in order to provide a vital snapshot of which species are thriving, which are struggling, and perhaps provide clues as to why, and how they can be protected.

It also supplies conservationists with data tracing those birds that are doing well.

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How to take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch

This year’s event takes place on 28th — 30th January 2022. The public is asked to spend just one hour watching and recording the birds in their garden or local green space, then send their results to the RSPB.

Mother and daughter birdwatching
Mother and her daughter counting birds in their garden in Bedfordshire/Credit: Eleanor Bentall/RSPB

To take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2022, simply watch the birds in your garden, from your balcony, or local park for one hour at some point over the three days the Birdwatch is taking place. Only count the birds that land, not the ones flying by.

The best British bird identification books to buy

Get prepared for the Great Garden Birdwatch with a decent bird ID guide. Here are our expert recommendations.


Britain's Birds Book

You can register now to take part and receive a free guide that will help you to identify our most common garden birds. It will also entitle you to a 20% discount code to spend in RSPB's online shop.

Watch this video from the RSPB for more details about how to participate in the Big Garden Birdwatch.

There's no need to prepare for the Bird Watch, but if you want to get ready early, you could put up a bird feeder to attract more birds to your garden, giving it a clean after each refill. The RSPB also recommends that you don't tidy your garden up too much over winter, making sure there are plenty of seeds and berries available for wildlife to feed on during the cold months. It's also good to leave out fresh water, making sure to keep it ice-free. Read more about how you can prepare your garden for winter birds.

Once you have recorded the birds that you've seen, simply submit your results online to the RSPB.

Great tit
Great tit Parus major, on RSPB coconut treat feeder/Credit: Chris Gomersall (

Where do birds go to winter?

As the days get shorter, millions of birds take flight and leave the UK ahead of winter.

Black cap

This common warbler is a short-range migrant that winters in southern Spain and Morocco. But in recent years, breeders from Germany and Austria have been flying west to spend the winter with us in Britain, and these birds often visit garden feeders.

See our guide to some of the more impressive bird migration routes, from swallows and swifts to Arctic terns

Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)

How birds fared in 2021

Although it was the best year for the number of people participating in Big Garden Birdwatch, it certainly wasn't the best year for Britain's birds. Although blackbirds and robins had a good year, finch numbers have fallen, with chaffinches and greenfinches in their lowest numbers yet. Later in the year, the RSPB found that sparrows were in serious decline, and 70 new species were added to the UK's Red List – that's 1 in 4 under serious threat.

The Big Garden Birdwatch in 2021 sadly found that 16 of the UK's top garden birds suffered a decline.

The top 10 birds in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2021

Rank. Species – average per garden (% of gardens species recorded in 2021)

  1. House sparrow
  2. Blue tit
  3. Starling
  4. Blackbird
  5. Woodpigeon
  6. Robin
  7. Great tit
  8. Goldfinch
  9. Magpie
  10. Long-tailed tit

Garden birds to spot


House sparrow

House sparrow
House sparrow, Passer domesticus, male, perched on stone in ... Ray Kennedy (

The house sparrow was the top recorded garden bird in 2021. Spotted in 62% of gardens in the UK.




Britain's most recognisable garden bird, the robin, was spotted in 83% of British gardens in 2021.



Dunnock Prunella modularis/Credit: Andy Hay (

Dunnocks were spotted in 39% of gardens in 2021.



Waxwing, Bombycilla garrulus, single bird on rowan berries ©Getty
Waxwing, Bombycilla garrulus, single bird on rowan berries ©Getty

The striking waxwing sadly did not make the top 20 garden bird list in 2021, but it is still worth keeping an eye out.



Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis/Credit: John Bridges (

The delicate goldfinch was spotted in 28% of gardens in 2021.


Blue tit

Blue tit on branch
Blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus, adult perched on branch, Scotland/Credit: Louise Greenhorn (

The colourful blue tit was spotted in 76% of gardens in 2021. These tiny garden birds relish a well-stocked feeder.



Starling Sturnus vulgaris, adult male in hedge/Credit: Andy Hay (

Starlings were seen in 37% of gardens in 2021.

Countryfile presenter Ellie Harrison writes about the plight of the starling in Britain

What is a murmuration and why do they happen?

It’s been called the greatest wildlife spectacle in Britain and is remarkable to witness. Studies suggest that starlings congregate in these remarkable ‘murmurations’ to deter possible predators, which are confused by the swirling masses. Despite a recent drop in their overall population, you can still witness the mesmerising sight of thousands of birds performing their aerial dance at dawn and dusk.

Discover more about starling murmurations with our handy guide



Male blackbird
Male Blackbird, Turdus Merula, on lawn (Andy Hay, RSPB Images)

Garden birds: male Blackbird, Turdus Merula/Credit:Andy Hay (rspb-images)

Unsurprisingly, the blackbird was spotted in 85% of gardens in 2021.



Chaffinch Fingilla coelebs, adult male on his "song post" Andy Hay (

Chaffinch were spotted in just 30% of gardens in 2021.



Wren Troglodytes troglodytes, perched on an old tree stump. John Bridges (

Wren were spotted in just 23% of gardens in 2021.


Carys MatthewsGroup Digital Editor

Carys is the Group Digital Editor of and Carys can often be found trail running, bike-packing, wild swimming or hiking in the British countryside.


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