House sparrows are most common in region

House sparrow
House sparrow

Over 43,000 people across Scotland, including 2,161 in Dumfries and Galloway, took part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch this year, spending an hour counting the birds in their garden over the weekend of 24 and 25 January.

Overall more than 632,000 birds were counted in Scotland. In Dumfries and Galloway house sparrows took the top spot. Across Scotland house sparrows stayed at the top of the rankings, while starlings moved up one place to second and chaffinches moved down a place to third.

Both robins and tree sparrows saw big climbs in the top 20. Robins moved up three places to number six and were Scotland’s most widespread garden bird after being seen in more than 91.4 per cent of gardens. Tree sparrows are now perched at number 16, their highest position for 10 years. Coal tits took the biggest tumble in the top 20 falling from number nine in 2014 to number 13 in 2015.

Keith Morton, Species Policy Officer at RSPB Scotland said: “It’s great that so many people took part in this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch. Both house sparrows and starlings, the top two birds in our 2015 results, are red list species, and so your results help us at RSPB Scotland to paint a picture of how they and other birds are faring over winter.”

Across the UK this year’s results indicate that the long term decline of house sparrows appears to have continued to slow, and it is the most commonly spotted bird in the UK. However, they remain a conservation concern as numbers have dropped by 57% since the first Birdwatch in 1979. Starlings are also of high concern having dropped in numbers by an alarming 80 per cent since the first Birdwatch.

Keith adds: “Big Garden Birdwatch helps us understand some of the trends in bird numbers. However, a decline in ranking in one year doesn’t necessarily mean a cause for concern. For example warmer weather overseas might explain why some of our winter visitors aren’t so plentiful in the Birdwatch results this year.”

There was a notable decline in the number of some winter migrants that were spotted over the Birdwatch weekend. Both bramblings and waxwings dived down the rankings although this may have more to do with the good conditions on the continent over the winter, reducing the need for these birds to migrate here.

Keith said: “Gardens are important to our wildlife all the year round. As we move into spring there are lots of ways you can give nature a home from planting the right trees and shrubs to building a log pile. Birds need a reliable source of food so once they know to find it in your garden they’ll keep coming back.”

For the second year running, participants were also asked to log some of the other wildlife they see in their gardens. RSPB Scotland asked whether people ever see slow worms and grass snakes in their gardens at any time of year as well as deer, squirrels, badgers, hedgehogs frogs and toads, which were all added to the survey last year.

This will help build an overall picture of how important our gardens are for giving all types of wildlife a home. This information will be analysed and results will be revealed next month.

The parallel UK-wide event, Big Schools’ Birdwatch, had more schools and children taking part than ever before. There were over 12,000 participants in Scotland. Blackbirds held on to their top spot in Big Schools’ Birdwatch, seen by over 85 per cent of the participating schools.

Big Garden Birdwatch and Big Schools’ Birdwatch are a part of the RSPB Scotland’s Giving Nature a Home campaign, aimed at tackling the housing crisis facing the UK’s threatened wildlife. The charity is asking people to provide a place for wildlife in their own gardens and outside spaces – whether it’s putting up a nest box for birds, creating a pond to support a number of different species or building a home for a hedgehog.

To find out how you can give nature a home where you live visit: rspb.org.uk/homes