Small garden birds suffer in cold weather

The results of the RSPB‘s Big Garden Birdwatch survey, which was launched in January, reveals that many small garden birds struggled in the unusually cold weather at the beginning of the year.

The number of coal tits spotted was down by 20% on last year, long-tailed tits were down by 27% and goldcrests were down by 75%.

Long-tailed tit

However, the cold weather also meant that birds more usually found in fields, trees and hedgerows ventured into gardens to find food, such as yellowhammers (up 68%), fieldfares (up 73%), redwings (up 185%), bullfinches (54%) and song thrushes (51%).

Song Thrush worm

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Sarah Kelly, Big Garden Birdwatch co-ordinator, said: ‘We were particularly concerned for small birds over winter, asking people to make sure they kept feeders topped up and supplied fresh water to help them.

‘These results highlight the importance of feeding and gardening for wildlife, especially during prolonged cold periods.’

The survey also showed that some of Britain’s favourite species are still in decline. In the past five years, house sparrow numbers have dropped by 17% and starling numbers by 13.7%; the former has fallen by 62.3% since 1979 and the latter by 79%.

house sparrow

The house sparrow topped the survey for the seventh year running, with an average of 3.8% seen per garden. The blackbird rose from third to second place, with an average of 3.3%, and the starling dropped to third, with 3.1%.


The top 10 species recorded in 2010 is as follows:
1. House sparrow – 3.8%
2. Blackbird – 3.3%
3. Starling – 3.1%
4. Blue tit – 2.6%
5. Chaffinch – 2.2%
6. Wood pigeon – 1.9%
7. Robin – 1.5%
8. Great tit – 1.4%
9. Collared dove – 1.3%
10. Goldfinch – 1.3%

Nearly 530,000 people took part in this year’s survey, counting eight and a half million birds and recording 73 species in 280,000 gardens during the weekend of January 30-31.

For more information about attracting wildlife to your garden, visit

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