‘Glimmer of hope’ Greenfinch sightings UP after devastating UK population crash

Conservation biologist: We should improve habitats to help birds

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Almost 700,000 people took part in this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch survey, giving the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) insight into the most common species found in gardens in the UK. Jaybirds saw one of the biggest jumps up nine places to number 23, an increase of 73 percent from 2021.

But the biggest “glimmer of hope” came from a small increase in Greenfinch.

A severe outbreak of trichomonosis saw numbers plummet 62 percent since 1993 and the species was added to the UK Red List in 2021. The infection is spread through contaminated food and drinking water, or by birds feeding one another with regurgitated food during the breeding season.

To keep the species safe and slow the transmission of trichomonosis the RSPB suggests stopping the provision of food if ill birds are seen and making sure that garden bird feeders are cleaned regularly.

The charity previously said if people can’t “clean weekly” then they should find other alternatives such as “putting up nest boxes, planting native vegetation, or leaving messy corners of the garden for nature.”

Taking the top spot is the House Sparrow with more than 1.7 million recorded sightings throughout the weekend-long survey, closely followed by Blue Tit and Starling in the number two and three spots respectively.

This year’s survey, which marked the 43rd year, clocked up more than 11 million birds.

RSPB’s Chief Executive, Beccy Speight: “We don’t know the reasons for the sudden increase in Jay sightings this year. It may be down to food availability as we have reported that last year was poor for acorns, but whatever the reason a sighting of this stunning bird is enough to raise one’s spirits any day of the year let alone on a gloomy January weekend.

“It’s been brilliant to see so many people taking part again this year, taking time out to watch and reconnect with birds and then generously submit their sightings to help RSPB scientists gain some insights into how our garden birds are faring.”

To create the perfect bird’s nest, Ark Wildlife suggests choosing the birds you want to attract first.

Some, such as sparrows and blue tits, favour nests with small entrances, while others like robins and wrens prefer open-fronted, and birds like starlings and woodpecks need larger holes.

The wildlife company said choosing waterproof timber at least 15mm thick, cutting the right size for the birds you want to attract, and placing the nest box on a wall or tree two to four meters high will create the perfect nest.

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Over its four decades, Big Garden Birdwatch has highlighted the winners and losers in the garden bird world.
In its first survey, the SPB was alerted to the decline in song thrush numbers, which are still down 81 percent compared to the first Big Garden Birdwatch in 1979. This species was a firm fixture in the top 10 in 1979.

By 2009, its numbers were less than half those recorded in 1979, it came in at 20 in the rankings this year, seen in just 8 percent of gardens.

Beccy added: “Connecting with nature doesn’t have to stop with Big Garden Birdwatch. Spring sees the return of Nature’s biggest music festival, the dawn chorus, with national and international stars coming together to perform their biggest hits right on your doorstep.​

“Open your back door, a window or simply step outside and listen. Share your Dawn Chorus experience with us on social media using #DawnChorusDay.”

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