How to take part and garden birds to spot in the 40th Big Garden Birdwatch

Grab your binoculars and celebrate 40 years of the Big Garden Birdwatch by recording your garden birds. Here is our guide on how to take part and the best birds to spot in your garden this winter


This weekend (26th – 28th January 2019) marks 40 years of the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. Here is our guide on how to take part and the best birds to spot in your garden this winter.

According to the conservation charity, across the UK over 8 million hours have been spent watching garden birds since the Birdwatch began in 1979 with more than 130 million birds counted.


What is the Big Garden Birdwatch?

Just one hour every year, for the last 40 years, has made the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch the largest garden wildlife citizen science project. During that time, across the UK hundreds of thousands of people have volunteered their time providing the RSPB with over 8 million hours of monitoring garden birds. Last year, over 500,000 birds were counted by Big Garden Birdwatchers in Scotland giving real insight into how our birds are faring.

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How to take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch

This year’s event takes place on 26, 27 and 28 January 2019. 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 RSPB Scotland. Last year 29,000 people in Scotland took part.

To take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2019, watch the birds in your garden or local park for one hour at some point over the three days. Only count the birds that land, not those flying over. Tell us the highest number of each bird species you see at any one time – not the total you see in the hour. Once you have recorded the birds that make a visit, submit your results online at

Your garden can be hugely important for wildlife, especially in winter when it offers a vital source of food, water, and shelter to birds. Big Garden Birdwatch is an opportunity to capture information on the wildlife visitors to your garden in an enjoyable, easy and inclusive way. We are now in our 40th year of the survey which means the results not only allow us to understand how birds are doing now, but it also shows us long-term changes.
Keith Morton, RSPB Scotland Senior Species Policy Officer

As well as counting birds, participants are once again asked to log some of the other wildlife they have seen throughout the year. Some of the other wildlife participants may have seen over the last year include foxes, hedgehogs, or red squirrels. Across the UK just 6% of those taking part had seen a red squirrel in their garden in the past year, while in Scotland 37% reported they had.

The parallel event, RSPB Big Schools’ Birdwatch takes place during the first half of spring term (2 January – 22 February 2019). Across Scotland, more than 5,000 children and teachers spent an hour in nature counting birds in 2018. Further information can be found at


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How birds are faring

Across 40 years, the survey has shown increases across the UK in collared dove and wood pigeon numbers and the alarming declines of the house sparrow and starling. While the overall decline in house sparrow numbers across the UK, reported by participants, since the Big Garden Birdwatch began is 57% (1979 – 2018), house sparrows were recorded in 76% of gardens in Scotland in 2018, up from 66% a decade ago.

Garden birds to spot






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


Gold finch on teasel
Adult goldfinch (Carduelis carduleis) feeding on teasel (Getty)