In 1995 the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) launched a weekly garden bird survey: Garden BirdWatch (GBW). Today the project is still going strong, having received over eight million lists of birds and other wildlife from a total of more than 50,000 British gardens, and giving us a unique insight into the changes at our bird feeders over that time.
In 1995 House Sparrows were the third most commonly-recorded bird, but today they are in 7th place, following the long-term decline of this species. Starling has dropped from 7th place to 13th, and Greenfinch has fallen from 8th to 15th, due to the decline in numbers caused by the disease trichomonosis. One of the biggest yet most mysterious declines is that of Song Thrush: in February 1996 they were recorded in over half of GBW gardens, and were a familiar sight feeding on snails. Today they are found in only 15% of GBW gardens, and yet over the same time period numbers in the country overall have remained stable.
Other birds are more common today than they were in 1995. Goldfinches are now a regular sight at garden bird feeders, having moved from 20th place to 8th, and may soon be a more common sight than House Sparrows. Nuthatches have moved into the top 20, and in 2019 Woodpigeon was the second most commonly-recorded bird, pushing Blackbird into third place.
However, Garden BirdWatch isn’t just about tracking changes in bird numbers; in our urbanising landscape, gardens and urban areas are becoming more significant, and it’s important to understand how birds and other wildlife use our gardens. Garden BirdWatch is the largest dataset of its kind in the world, and will continue to be studied for many years to come.
Kate Risely, the Garden BirdWatch Organiser, said “Garden BirdWatch has been a great success, and the thousands of people who send us lists of the birds in their gardens have built an incredible resource. Everyone who takes part learns something new about the birds and wildlife in their garden, as well as helping us learn new things about garden wildlife in general. Garden BirdWatchers also record other wildlife alongside their bird lists, so we have fantastic data on butterflies, dragonflies, reptiles, amphibians and mammals in gardens.”
Anyone with access to a garden can take part, and taking part in GBW is quick and easy. For more information please visit www.bto.org/gbw
To see the full results from Garden BirdWatch, please visit bit.ly/GBW25Results