House sparrow in Borders’ top spot

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The humble house sparrow topped the rankings for Borders gardens in an RSPB survey.

In total, more than 43,000 people across Scotland, including 1,732 in the Borders, spent an hour counting birds in their gardens over the weekend of January 24 and 25 for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.

Overall, more than 632,000 birds were counted in Scotland and, as well as in Borders gardens, house sparrows stayed top of the rankings across the country as a whole, while starlings moved up one place to second and chaffinches moved down a place to third.

Both robins and tree sparrows saw big climbs in the top 20. Robins moved up three places to number six and were Scotland’s most widespread garden bird.

Tree sparrows are now perched at number 16, their highest position for 10 years. Coal tits took the biggest tumble in the top 20, falling from number nine in 2014 to number 13 in 2015.

Keith Morton, species policy officer at RSPB Scotland, said it was great that so many people took part.

“Both house sparrows and starlings, the top two birds in our 2015 results, are red list species, and so your results help us at RSPB Scotland to paint a picture of how they and other birds are faring over winter,” he told us.

Across the UK, this year’s results indicate that the long-term decline of house sparrows appears to have continued to slow, and it is the most commonly spotted bird in the UK.

However, they remain a conservation concern as numbers have dropped by 57 per cent since the first Birdwatch in 1979.

Keith added: “Big Garden Birdwatch helps us understand some of the trends in bird numbers. However, a decline in ranking in one year doesn’t necessarily mean a cause for concern.

“For example, warmer weather overseas might explain why some of our winter visitors aren’t so plentiful in the Birdwatch results this year.

“Gardens are important to our wildlife all the year round. As we move into spring there are lots of ways you can give nature a home, from planting the right trees and shrubs to building a log pile.

“Birds need a reliable source of food, so once they know to find it in your garden they’ll keep coming back.”

For the second year running, participants were also asked to log some of the other wildlife they see in their gardens.

RSPB Scotland asked whether people ever see slow worms and grass snakes in their gardens at any time of year, as well as deer, squirrels, badgers, hedgehogs, frogs and toads, which were all added to the survey last year.

This will help build an overall picture of how important gardens are for giving all types of wildlife a home and this additional information is now being analysed and results will be revealed next month.

To find out how you can give nature a home where you live, visit: rspb.org.uk