Learn more about the bird species that visit your garden each season by kicking off the year by taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch. Birdwatching is a relaxing and fascinating activity for all ages to enjoy from the comfort of home and is a great way to get children interested in wildlife. By taking the time to monitor and record your garden birds, you'll be playing an important role in helping conservationists build a valuable picture of how each species is faring and form a plan action to help native bird species.

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See our round-up of the best bird box cameras for wildlife watching and best bird identification books.

When is the Big Garden Birdwatch?

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 just under 700,000 people took part, counting some 11 million birds.

Why did the RSPB start the Big Garden Birdwatch?

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.

Garden bird guide: how to care for birds and what to feed different species

Help your garden birds stay healthy throughout the seasons with our expert guide on caring for wild birds, the best foods to feed different species and tips on how to attract birds to your garden

How to take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch

This year’s event takes place on 27th — 29th January 2023. 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 2023, 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.

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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 (rspb-images.com)

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 2022

Overall numbers of people taking part in 2022 were lower than the previous year but this is probably due to 2021 being a lockdown year, with more people at home. Overall, the top three positions remained unchanged: sparrow, blue tit and starling respectively. There was a little bit of good news for the red-listed greenfinches, which have suffered a 62 per cent decline since 1993. This year saw a slight increase – which may indicate a possible recovery for this once common species.

Jays were the biggest climber – rising 9 places to number 23 in the charts. Ornithologist put this down to 2021 being a poor year for the birds' favourite food, acorns, which meant they foraged more in gardens than woodlands.


The top 10 birds in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2022

Rank. Species – average per garden based on % of gardens species recorded in 2022. Numbers in brackets are 2021 positions.

  1. House sparrow - (1 in 2021)
  2. Blue tit (2)
  3. Starling (3)
  4. Woodpigeon (5)
  5. Blackbird (4)
  6. Robin (6)
  7. Goldfinch (8)
  8. Great tit (7)
  9. Magpie (9)
  10. Chaffinch (11)

Garden birds to spot

1

House sparrow

House sparrow
Male house sparrow, (Passer domesticus)./Credit: Ray Kennedy, RSPB images.

The house sparrow was the top recorded garden bird in 2022. There were 1.7 million recorded sighting over the Big Birdwatch weekend.

2

Robin

Robin (Eithacus rubecula), in song in Norfolk./Credit: David Tipling/Getty Images.

Britain's most recognisable garden bird, the robin is undergoing a continual decline (down 23.6% since 1979) but retains 6th position in the Garden Birdwatch chart.

3

Dunnock

Dunnock
Dunnock (Prunella modularis)/Credit: Andy Hay, RSPB Images

Dunnocks look superficially like sparrows and, being rather shy and shulking, are probably under-reported in the garden.

4

Waxwing

Waxwing, Bombycilla garrulus, single bird on rowan berries ©Getty
Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) on rowan berries./Credit: Getty

You never known what might turn up. The striking waxwing with its peachy plumage and crest is a scarce winter visitor – arriving in gardens to plunder berries such as these rowans.

5

Goldfinch

Goldfinch
Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)/Credit: John Bridges, RSPB Images

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

6

Blue tit

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

In a slight increase on 2021, the colourful blue tit was spotted in 78% of gardens in 2022. These tiny garden birds relish a well-stocked feeder (see our guide to the best bird food for more information). Learn more about tit species found in the UK in our handy guide.

7

Starling

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

Starlings were the third most commonly spotted garden bird in 2022.

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

8

Blackbird

Male blackbird
Male Blackbird (Turdus merula), on lawn./Credit: Andy Hay, RSPB Images

Although only 8th in the list, the blackbird appeared in more gardens than any other species. Learn more about the fascinating blackbird in our expert guide.

9

Chaffinch

Chaffinch (Fingilla coelebs), adult male on his "song post"./Credit: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

The chaffinch returned to the top 10 in the 2022 list. See our finches guide for more insight into this characterful species.

10

Wren

Wren
Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), perched on an old tree stump./Credit: John Bridges (rspb-images.com)

Wrens are thought to be Britain's most common bird, with 11 million pairs.

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How to attract birds to your garden

From putting out feeders to providing fresh drinking water, there are a number of easy ways you can attract birds to your garden. See our garden bird guide for more advice and inspiration.

Authors

Carys MatthewsGroup Digital Editor

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

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