Small birds thriving due to mildwinters shows the Big Bird Watch

More than half-a-million people joined in the world's largest garden wildlife survey turning their eyes to the garden to watch and count over eight million birds during the 37th RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.

Thursday, 7th April 2016, 11:14 am
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 9:55 pm
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The survey showed smaller birds were benefitting from milder winters, starlings are still in decline and gold finches are increasing in numbers by muscling in on garden feeders.

The specific results for East Sussex saw the humble house sparrow topping the charts for the most spotted garden bird, with the blue tit coming in second.

Blackbirds, robins, magpies and chaffinches, were all recorded as being regular visitors to gardens.

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The school’s section of the Big Bird Watch for East Sussex showed the carrion crow, woodpigeon and blackbird in the top three and also saw three species of seagull in the top ten.

Magpies also featured prominently in both surveys.

The mild weather in the months leading up to the 2016 Birdwatch affected bird behaviour, as it provided easy access to bugs and reduced their dependency on garden feeders.

Dr Daniel Hayhow, RSPB Conservation Scientist, said: “The weather can have varied effects on different groups of birds in terms of behaviour and habitats used.

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“The increase in smaller garden birds just goes to show that in the absence of very cold weather these species can survive winter in much greater numbers.

“The warmer temperatures have made it easier to find food, like insects, which in colder winters would have been harder to come by because of frosts and snow.”

During periods of colder temperatures birds struggle to find food in the wider countryside so become more reliant on garden feeders. Smaller birds, have adapted to feeding at bird tables or from hanging feeders.

Sara Humphrey, of RSPB South East, says: “The results for East Sussex show a significant rise in smaller birds such as great tits and goldfinches using our gardens to find food.

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“Despite this boost in numbers many other of our garden favourites are struggling.

“Starlings continue to feature in the top three visitors to East Sussex gardens, but were recorded in 8.6 per cent fewer gardens than in 2015. This decline continues a national trend that has seen the number of starlings visiting gardens decline by 81 per cent since the first Birdwatch in 1979.

“Providing food, water and nest boxes in your gardens, outdoor spaces and even on balconies offer invaluable resources for starlings and other garden birds, and can have a significant positive effect on local populations.”

The findings of the Big Garden Birdwatch are reflected in the parallel event, Big Schools’ Birdwatch, which continued to break records with more schools and children taking part than ever before.

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The UK-wide survey of birds in schools had close to 100,000 school children spending an hour in nature counting birds.

Nationally, the blackbird remained the most common playground visitor for the eighth year in a row.

The surveys are a part of the RSPB’s Giving Nature a Home campaign.

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