Posted 22nd Jan 2013
The annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is back, and they need your help to keep track of our garden birds this winter
Hundreds of thousands of people across the UK take part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch every year, counting up each bird species seen in their garden to help out in the world's biggest wildlife survey.
This year the Birdwatch will be taking place on 26th and 27th January and the RSPB are asking you to spend just one hour, at any time over the Big Garden Birdwatch weekend, noting the highest number of each bird species seen in your garden or local park at any one time. You then have three weeks to submit your results to the RSPB either online at www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch or via post.
The important survey assists the RSPB in working out garden bird populations during the winter months, helping to highlight some of the dramatic declines seen in UK garden birds.
Sarah Houghton, RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch Manager, said: "The declines of birds like starlings and sparrows over the last thirty years or so have been alarming, but Big Garden Birdwatch has helped us find out more about their numbers and distribution across UK gardens, and that has been the first step in helping to put things right."
Last year more than nine million garden birds were counted, with the house sparrow coming out as the top spotted species seen in 64% of gardens. Sightings of more popular species such as blue tits, great tits and coal tits have increased over the years, and goldfinches have featured regularly in the top fifteen species since 2004.
Registration for the Big Garden Birdwatch is now open at www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch or call 0300 456 8330 to receive a free Big Garden Birdwatch pack. For bird food, bird feeders and accessories visit www.rspbshop.co.uk.
To help you identify the birds landing in your garden the RSPB have helped us to put together this handy guide:
The noisy house sparrow is a cheeky chap often seen pinching scraps and mealworms from the ground or grazing on seeds and grains at the bird table. The sparrow can be quite lazy, hardly moving more than two kilometres from its birthplace, yet it remains one of the most well-known garden birds.
Starlings are known for their ability to mimic the calls of other birds and for their diverse collection of song. Starlings can look black from a distance but when seen up close have very glossy feathers that shimmer in shades of purple and green. Smaller than blackbirds, starlings are fast flyers and often walk and run across the ground as they look for worms, grubs and seeds.
The blue tit is one of our most distinctive and attractive birds, with a mix of blue, yellow and green colours. Often seen hanging from a peanut feeder, they are also partial to seeds and bird table scraps. In winter blue tits can be seen in groups with great tits, long-tailed tits and other woodland species.
One of the most common UK birds, blackbirds are a striking species. The male is distinguished by their black beak and eye-ring, though it's only the male that is black as the female is brown. They are often seen hopping along the ground with their tail up, feeding mostly on berries, scraps and apples.
One of the most common breeding birds, the chaffinch is a colourful species, often heard before it is seen. They don't tend to feed openly on bird feeders, preferring to hop around under the bird table or under hedges looking for food.
The woodpigeon is the UK's most common species of pigeon, recognised as a tame bird in towns and cities though seem shy in the countryside. Their cooing call is a well-known sound in woodlands, as is the clatter of their wings as they fly away, and they prefer to feed on grain, seeds, berries, cabbages and peas.
The goldfinch is a small bird, highly coloured with a red face and yellow wing patch. Goldfinches feed in small groups, usually on the ground, eating a diet of seeds and insects.
The great tit is bigger than the blue tit, recognisable by its green and yellow colouring with a distinctive two-syllable song. They are a woodland bird but have become used to man-made habitats, making them a regular garden visitor. They feed mostly on seeds and scraps and have been known to become quite aggressive at the bird table.
A well-loved and well-known garden bird, the robin is actually an aggressively territorial bird. They are the only garden bird to sing through the winter though it is unusual to see more than two at a time except in particularly cold weather. They feed mostly on seeds, scraps, berries, insects and mealworms.
Usually seen on their own or in pairs, collared doves are often recognisable from their dull cooing sound. They feed on the ground on seeds and scraps and can usually be spotted perching on roofs and wires.
Often mistaken for a sparrow, the dunnock is a small bird usually seen creeping around under bushes. They are brown and grey in colour, with a slender beak used for catching insects and spiders. They lead a very promiscuous lifestyle, with females having been known to breed with more than one male at a time.
The magpie is a well-known garden bird and feeds on lots of different foods, including scraps. It appears black and white but when seen up close it has a much more colourful hue. They are known for being scavengers and predators, making them a rather unpopular bird in the garden.
Easily recognisable by its colouring and a tail that is actually bigger than its body, the long-tailed tit is a friendly but noisy bird, usually seen in excitable groups of about twenty. They generally feed on insects but are starting to visit garden bird tables and nut feeders in the winter months when insects are harder to find.
The greenfinch is a colourful character, often found nesting in a garden conifer or eating black sunflower seeds. They can be recognised by their yellow and green feathers and are known for being sociable, though they often squabble with other birds at the bird table.