What will you see in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch?

The world’s largest garden wildlife survey returns this weekend, January 29-31 – and you’re invited to take part.

By Kevin McRoberts
Wednesday, 27th January 2021, 1:09 pm
Families are being invited to take part in this weekend's RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.
Families are being invited to take part in this weekend's RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.

Thousands of people across Scotland will celebrate their love of nature and unite to watch and count the country’s garden birds this weekend for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.

Over the past year, we’ve seen how important the natural world is to our mental health and wellbeing.

There has been a surge in interest in the nature on our doorsteps and many people have come to rely on garden birds to bring joy and comfort in these unsettling times.

Some of our most common and popular garden birds, including the robin, have declined dramatically in numbers since the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch began back in 1979. (Photo: Andy Hay rspb-images.com)

A ScotPulse survey last summer found 76 per cent of respondents said they had become more aware of nature during lockdown.

This year’s event takes place on January 29, 30 and 31 . The public is asked to spend just one hour watching and recording the birds from their garden, balcony or window, then send their results to the RSPB.

Close to half-a-million people join in the Birdwatch every year across the UK.

Just one hour every year, for the last four decades, has made the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch the largest garden wildlife citizen science project.

Now in its 42nd year, 144 million birds have been counted giving the RSPB an astonishing amount of insight into how our wildlife is faring.

Anne McCall, director of RSPB Scotland, said: “I am delighted that more people than ever have signed up for this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch so far.

“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen just how important our connection to nature is. With more time spent in our homes and local areas noticing the wildlife around us, many of us have found a renewed appreciation for nature locally.

“I would encourage everyone who can to take part in Big Garden Birdwatch, not only for the phenomenal amount of data it produces, but also to take some time really focussing on the little things, to relax and to enjoy the benefits of spending time watching nature.”

Keith Morton, senior species policy officer, added: “The data you submit from your Big Garden Birdwatch helps us create a picture of how bird populations are faring, which then informs the work we do to protect those species most at risk.

“Last year almost 18,000 households in Scotland counted their garden birds for an hour, which makes for a massive amount of data.

“Could you give an hour of your time this year to get involved? Every submission is important, even if you don’t see a single bird, and enjoying nature is just as important as counting it.”

The house sparrow remained at the top of the Big Garden Birdwatch rankings as the most commonly seen garden bird, visiting 70 per cent of Scottish gardens in 2020. Starling held down the second spot once more, with the chaffinch completing the top three.

Reports of long-tailed tits in gardens in Scotland were up in 2020, boosting them into the top 10 for Scotland, being seen in 20 per cent of gardens.

While house sparrows and starlings may be the most commonly sighted birds, a closer look at Big Garden Birdwatch data shows that numbers have in fact dropped dramatically since the Birdwatch began in 1979. House sparrows are down 53 per cent while starlings are down 80 per cent. It’s a pattern echoed by two more garden favourites, with blackbirds and robins down 46 per cent and 32 per cent respectively.

To take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2021, download your free Big Garden Birdwatch guide, which includes a bird identification chart, top tips for your birdwatch, RSPB shop voucher, plus advice on how to help you attract wildlife to your garden. Go to RSBP Big Garden Birdwatch