RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch
How we can all help the RSPB to help our garden birds
January sees the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch – the world’s biggest wildlife survey. In 2017, eight million garden birds were sighted by the 500,000 people who took part across Britain.
The 2018 birdwatch takes place on 27-29 January. To be part of it, download a pack from the RSPB website – it includes a picture chart so you can correctly identify the birds you spot. Simply spend one hour looking out for birds in your garden or in a public space and note down your sightings.
The Big Garden Birdwatch gives the RSPB a snapshot of how our garden birds are faring and enables the charity to compare figures to previous years, providing a picture as to which species are doing okay and which are struggling.
And, just because a species comes top of the list, it doesn’t mean that historically, they’re doing well. The fact is, the UK bird population has suffered a huge decline since 1970 – some species are down by 95%. The main cause is modern agricultural practices in the UK and Europe. Most species have been affected. A notable exception is the house sparrow, because populations in urban areas appear to be self-sustaining.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that it was top of the league at the last count. The 2017 birdwatch produced this Top 10:
1 – House sparrow
2 – Starling
3 – Blackbird
4 – Blue tit
5 – Woodpigeon
6 – Goldfinch
7 – Robin
8 – Great tit
9 – Chaffinch
10 – Long tailed tit
Things you can do to help our birds
Birds benefit from all-year-round feeding. In autumn and winter, make sure they get two good meals a day, in the morning and early afternoon. High fat bird foods are especially helpful during these months, as they give the birds the increased energy they need.
In spring and summer, garden birds need protein. Black sunflower seeds, mealworms, and quality seed mixes are good. Even mild cheese will go down a treat. Birds also love fruit such as soft apples and pears – slice them in half for them – and bananas and grapes. Don’t use peanuts, fat or bread during these months as they can harm chicks if adults take them back to the nest to feed them.
Whatever the season, use the same feeding times so the birds get used to their ‘dinner times’ and visit your garden accordingly. And regularly clean the feeding area to prevent the risk of disease spreading among the birds.
Keep a supply of water for the birds to drink – they like to drink a couple of times a day. A bird bath is equally important. It keeps them clean and preening their feathers also improves their insulation. Again, keep the birdbath and the water hygienic with weekly cleans if possible.
It’s not just nest boxes that help garden birds. Allowing trees, shrubs and hedges to grow undisturbed also provides a safe haven. Check with the RSPB before doing anything that might disturb birds. Remember: all birds, their nests and their eggs are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act. www.rspb.org.uk