Posted 31st Mar 2016 by Peter Byrne
The mild winter we've had has led to a boost in the number of small birds that are visiting our gardens
The long-tailed tit was a particularly popular sighting, returning to the top 10 most commonly seen for the first time in seven years. Recorded sightings rose of the tit rose by 44%, spotted in more than a quarter of participants' gardens. Other garden birds who also benefitted include the great tit and coal tit.
Around 519,000 people participated in the survey, in the process counting 8.2 million birds as the RSPB's 37th Big Garden Birdwatch asked the public to count the birds spotted in their gardens and local parks over the last weekend of January. The aim of the survey was to compile a snapshot of the UK's bird population.
The most commonly spotted garden bird remains the house sparrow, as an average of 4.2 birds were seen per garden, and it was spotted in 61% of gardens. The next most common bird was the starling, with 2.9 spotted per garden and it was seen in 39% of gardens.
Yet while some birds reported positive results, some species continued to undergo a long-term decline, with a staggering 80% less starlings spotted in 2016 compared to 1979. Sparrows also suffered a significant 57% decrease, while the chaffinch and greenfinch underwent a 46% and 44% respectively.
RSPB conservationists said that the increase in sightings of the long-tailed tit could only be linked to one factor, which was the mild weather in the months leading up to the birdwatch. With the winter of 2015-16 being the warmest ever recorded in England and Wales, and the third warmest on record for the UK.
The long-tailed tit and other such small birds are more likely to be killed off during colder weather, primarily as a result of the insects they rely on for food being harder to find in frosty and snowy conditions.
Longer term, the increase in the amount of long-tailed tits and other small birds could also be explained by adapting to feeding on seeds at bird tables or feeders. The average number of long-tailed tits seen in UK gardens has also increased by 52%, with great tit numbers increasing by 13% and coal tit numbers by 9%.
Image courtesy of Getty / Moment / Photography by Linda Lyon