Mistle Thrush numbers in decline

PUBLISHED: 00:30 25 January 2013

A mistle thrush enjoying a selection of berries
Picture: Peter Howlett/BTO

A mistle thrush enjoying a selection of berries Picture: Peter Howlett/BTO

Peter Howlett

The mistle thrush is vanishing from UK gardens, wildlife experts warned as they urged people to take part in an annual survey to monitor how birds are faring.

Results from the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch survey have shown that mistle thrushes are now being seen in fewer than half the number of gardens they were spotted in 10 years ago.

The RSPB is urging the public to take part in this year’s survey, which takes place this weekend, to help gather important information on how mistle thrushes and other garden bird species are doing.

The event, described by the conservation charity as the world’s biggest wildlife survey, is now in its 34th year.

Since starting in 1979 it has helped highlight dramatic declines in some garden birds.

Starling numbers have fallen from an average of 15 per garden in 1979 to just three in 2012, while house sparrow numbers have fallen by two-thirds in the same period, although the two species are still the most commonly seen.

Some birds have seen their fortunes improve, with garden birds such as blue tits, great tits and coal tits on the increase since 1979.

Goldfinches were absent from the Big Garden Birdwatch in its early years but have featured regularly in the top 15 species spotted since 2004.

Martin Harper, RSPB conservation director, said: “Everyone that has ever taken part in Big Garden Birdwatch has helped to make us aware of huge changes in the populations of birds like house sparrows, starlings and song thrushes, leading us to do more work on the decline of these familiar birds.

“Mistle thrushes are already on the amber-list of conservation concern and are closely related to the threatened song thrush.

“The rate of decline we’ve seen throughout Big Garden Birdwatch suggest both these species are in need of help.”

Last year almost 600,000 people, including 90,000 pupils and teachers at schools, took part in Birdwatch activities, counting nine million birds between them.

People can take part by spending an hour at any time this weekend counting birds in their garden or park, noting the highest number of each bird species seen at any one time and submitting the results to the RSPB.

Schoolteachers and children will be doing the same thing in their school grounds as part of the Big Schools Birdwatch over the next week.

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