Five birds to keep an eye out for during the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch

Starling. Picture: RSPB images Starling. Picture: RSPB images

Thursday, January 24, 2013
5:05 PM

From starlings to goldfinches to blue tits, there are huge array of different birds that fly into our gardens.

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House sparrow. Picture: RSPB imagesHouse sparrow. Picture: RSPB images

As the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch gets ready for its 34th annual survey this weekend, we find out more about five different birds.

House Sparrows

House sparrows could be described as one of the most cosmopolitan of all birds. Their population is normally highest where humans live, their spread and distribution closely follows that of human settlements. They are very sociable and are the most human-associated species. They nest in colonies in crevices, holes and boxes. They breed so rapidly that their eggs were once believed to be a powerful aphrodisiac. They are probably best recognised for their cheeky nature. They feed on seeds, grains and scraps on the ground or bird tables. They also enjoy nut feeders and mealworms. They can be quite lazy, they hardly move more than two kilometres from their birthplace. Even though the house sparrow is widely distributed throughout Britain, the population remains a red listed species of high conservation concern.

Starlings

Starlings often roost in massive numbers. These roosts are incredible spectacles, known as ‘murmurations’ with some city hot spots containing more than a million birds! Sadly, their numbers have declined by three-quarters today. Because of the decline in population, these big roosts are more difficult to find these days. Starlings are known for their ability to mimic the calls of other birds. They have a diverse collection of song. Smaller than blackbirds, a starling looks black at a distance but when seen closer it has very glossy feathers, which shimmer with purples and greens. They are particularly fast flyers and walk and run confidently across the ground. The starling eats scraps, seeds and from nut feeders, worms and grubs. Although still common in gardens, the starling remains a red listed species.

Goldfinch

A small, highly-coloured finch with a red face and yellow wing patch.

Goldfinches feed in small groups, and their twittering call and colourful wings are attention grabbing.

Goldfinches like to build their nests on the outer twigs at the end of a branch: they particularly favour fruit trees.

They are a seed-eater and normally feed on the ground, on seed heads of garden plants and on seed-filled birdfeeders.

They will also eat insects.

The goldfinch was seen in 33pc of gardens in 2012.

Blue Tit

The brighter a male blue tit’s breast is, the more attractive and appealing he will be to females. Blue tits breed on their first year, and pair formation takes place in the winter, after they have moulted their previous year’s feathers.

A blue tit weighs the same as a pound coin. The blue tit’s mix of colours (blue, yellow, and green) helps to make them one of the most attractive garden birds.

Gardens with a peanut feeder will often attract them. They also feed on seed, and scraps from bird tables and the ground.

In winter blue tits can be seen grouping together with great tits, long-tailed tits and other woodland species. A garden with four or five at a bird table at one time may actually be feeding 20 or more birds.

The blue tit was seen in 83pc

of gardens during the 2012 Birdwatch.

Great Tit

The great tit is perhaps best known for its piercing “teacher-teacher” song, which sounds very much like a bicycle pump, and is usually heard in the spring and summer. A common call is a repeated “chink”, which can be confused with the “pink pink” call of the chaffinch. Bigger than the blue tit, the great tit is green and yellow with a distinctive two-syllable song. They are a woodland bird, but have got used to man-made habitats to become a well-known garden visitor. They feed on seeds and scraps, from nut feeders and bird tables where they can be quite aggressive. In winter months family groups of great tits are joined by blue tits, long-tailed tits and other woodland species as they search for food. The great tit was seen in 60pc of gardens in the last Birdwatch.

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