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Living, Country

The Big Garden Birdwatch 2024

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Ray Kennedy (rspb-images.com)

The world’s largest garden wildlife survey returns, with hundreds of thousands of people watching and counting the UK’s garden birds over the last weekend in January for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.

Over half a million people took part in 2023, counting more than nine million birds. This year’s event takes place on 26, 27 and 28 January 2024. People across the UK are asked to spend an hour watching and counting the birds in their garden, balcony, or local park, then send their results to the RSPB.

Eleanor Bentall (rspb-images.com)

This year marks 45 years since the first Big Garden Birdwatch. Starting in 1979, it has become a much-loved annual citizen science event, giving the RSPB a valuable snapshot of how our garden visitors are doing in the UK. Over that time, 185 million birds have been counted and nearly 11.5 million hours spent watching and counting garden birds.

Beccy Speight, the RSPB’s Chief Executive, said: “By taking part in the Birdwatch you are joining hundreds of thousands of people from across the UK, united in a love of nature…Big Garden Birdwatch demonstrates the power that people have when they come together for nature.”

Last year, House Sparrows celebrated their 20th year as the number one bird spotted in UK gardens. While nearly 1.5 million were spotted across the January weekend, House Sparrows have sadly suffered severe declines. In fact, the number spotted in gardens has dropped by nearly 60% since the Big Garden Birdwatch first began in 1979.

Over its four decades, Big Garden Birdwatch has highlighted the winners and losers in the garden bird world. The Long-Tailed Tit, a much-loved species, rose five positions in the rankings last year, with numbers 39% higher than in 2022. However, Long-Tailed Tits are susceptible to harsh weather conditions, with the numbers fluctuating since the Big Garden Birdwatch began. Meanwhile, Greenfinches and Chaffinches have been badly affected by a disease known as Trichomonosis. As a result, the UK Chaffinch population has declined by 37% over the last decade, while Greenfinches have declined by 62% over the same time frame.

Eleanor Bentall (rspb-images.com)

The Birdwatch was first to alert the RSPB to the decline in Song Thrush numbers, which are down 80% compared to the first Big Garden Birdwatch in 1979. This species was a firm fixture in the top 10 in 1979 but by 2009, its numbers were less than half those recorded 30 years beforehand. The Song Thrush scraped in at number 20 in the rankings this year, seen in just 9% of gardens.

To take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2024, watch the birds on your balcony, in your garden or in your local green space for one hour at some point over the three days. Only count the birds that land, not those flying over. Record the highest number of each bird species you see at any one time – not the total you see in the hour.

To receive your FREE Big Garden Birdwatch guide, which includes a bird identification chart, top tips for your birdwatch, RSPB shop voucher, plus advice on how to help you attract wildlife to your garden, text BIRD to 82727 or visit rspb.org.uk/birdwatch

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