Finches resist decline in garden bird numbers, says RSPB

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

The RSPB has published the results of January’s Big Garden Birdwatch, in which thousands of householders sent in data about visitors to their back gardens or local parks – and the news isn’t good.

Bird numbers are at a five-year low, with the average number seen in each garden down by a fifth since 2004.

Only the various members of the finch family – particularly the goldfinch – and the song thrush have managed to buck the trend and increase numbers.

Goldfinches move into the top 10 most-seen birds for the first time, while siskins, redpolls and bramblings have also increased.

The RSPB’s Dr Andre Farrar, said: “It’s definitely been a good winter for finches. Our gardens can be very welcoming to them, especially those with nyjer seed provided and thistles and teasels left to grow which also provide food.

“We’re seeing numbers of goldfinches swell because our milder winters encourage them to stay here instead of going to southern Europe. The increase in bramblings, up by two thirds in the last five years, reflects the scarcity of beech seed known as ‘mast’ in northern Europe and Scandinavia – if the mast crop is poor in these countries, we see more of them here in our gardens.

“Along with siskin increases, numbers of redpolls seen in gardens have skyrocketed. Again this is probably due to supply of food; both birds feed on conifers and deciduous seeds, so the figures suggest that tree seed supplies have been poor this year and they’ve been forced into gardens to find food.”

The 80 per cent increase in song thrushes is probably down to last year’s warm, wet summer, which made it easier for them to find snails, slugs and earthworms to feed their young. The bad news is that the species has been on the decline for 30 years, and one year’s increase is only a small start towards reversing that trend.

As usual, sparrows topped the poll – though their numbers are still sharply declining. Starlings were the second most-often seen bird, and blackbirds overtook blue tits to come third.

And – unsurprisingly with 400,000 people on look-out – some unusual ‘garden’ birds were seen this year, including red kites, firecrests, hawfinchs, and little egrets.

Top 15

  1. House sparrow
  2. Starling
  3. Blackbird
  4. Blue tit
  5. Chaffinch
  6. Woodpigeon
  7. Collared dove
  8. Robin
  9. Great tit
  10. Goldfinch
  11. Green finch
  12. Dunnock
  13. Magpie
  14. Long-tailed tit
  15. Jackdaw

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