This weekend (January 30–31), the RSPB holds its annual Big Garden Birdwatch survey, in which members of the public are encouraged to record different bird species visiting their gardens and local spaces.

The RSPB encourages people to download a form and use it to record the highest number of every bird species seen at any one time. There are pages on its website dedicated to helping you identify birds.

Long-tailed tit
Long-tailed tits

The results of the survey will help the RSPB understand which bird species are thriving and which ones are vulnerable, particularly during this year’s ‘big freeze’. The recent cold weather may have had an adverse effect on birds with small bodies, such as robins, long-tailed tits and wrens.

Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB’s director of conservation, says: ‘We can expect to see some more unusual visitors to gardens, particularly redwings, fieldfares and tree sparrows, that are struggling to find food elsewhere.

tree sparrowTree sparrow

‘It’s unlikely that the long-tailed tit, which famously flew into 10th place in 2009, will remain in the top 10 this year.’

The Birdwatch survey is now in its 31st year. The 2009 survey saw record numbers involved, with 551,881 participants recording more than 8.5 million birds across about 280,000 gardens.

house sparrowHouse sparrow

House sparrows topped the list of garden birds spotted last year for the sixth year running, followed by starlings and blackbirds.

The robin has been in the top 10 every year since the start of the survey, but Dr Avery fears that the below-average temperatures may cause a decline in numbers this year.


The Birdwatch survey has revealed several species declines over the past 30 years, with starling numbers falling by 77% and house sparrow numbers falling by 64%. The RSPB uses the survey data in order to kick-start campaigns to aid species recovery.

For more information about attracting wildlife to your garden, visit

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