February 1 2015 Latest news:
Thursday, January 9, 2014
In the second of our weekly series to highlight this year’s RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, here’s a look back to the 2012 results, which reveal the winners - and losers - in our gardens.
Back in 1979, just over 30,000 children took part in the Big Garden Birdwatch. It was their secret and adults were forbidden from joining in! It wasn’t until 22 years later, in 2001, that the first really big Big Garden Birdwatch with adults joining in the fun was organised.
From then the survey has gone from strength to strength and now, there are around 600,000 people watching their garden birds every January – the biggest wildlife survey in the world.
All this data has showed some interesting results. Woodpigeons and collared doves have for a long time continued to be the two biggest winners. They have achieved massive number increases and can now be seen in around half of our gardens.
The tit family has proven themselves to have the greatest staying power. Blue and great tits have both staked their claim in the Big Garden Birdwatch top 15 with regular appearances, year on year. The coal tit did slip down to number 16 in the 2012 results, but came back in at number 13 in 2013.
Colourful goldfinches have crept up the rankings, and in recent years have been a familiar sight in the top 15; they are now found in around a third of BGB gardens.
House sparrows and starlings continue to be the biggest losers by far. Despite battling with each other to be top of the Big Garden Birdwatch table for the past 30 years, we’re still seeing fewer of them in our gardens. In 2013 starlings slipped down to fourth place. Thirty years ago we might have seen groups of say, ten sparrows and 15 starlings in the garden, but these days you’d be lucky to see more than three or four, and in some areas they have disappeared completely.
You can count yourself especially lucky if you see a song thrush in your garden. They were really common in 1979, but have plummeted down the Big Garden Birdwatch rankings in recent years. Song thrushes dropped out of the top 20 for the first time in 2005 and throughout 2010 and 2011, they hovered at the 19th/20th position. The results in 2012 saw them drop to 22nd position, where they remained in 2013.
Numbers of blackbirds, chaffinches, greenfinches and robins have also dropped significantly in the last 30 years.
To view the birds and their descriptions, click on the gallery link in the top right hand corner of the page.
Illustrations by Mike Langman and RSPB images.