78,066 people across Scotland took part by counting their garden birds over a weekend in January, counting a total of 1,527,163 birds across the country
• Over a million people across the UK spent an hour watching the birds that visit their garden or outdoor space, double last year’s participation numbers
• The Big Garden Birdwatch is the world’s largest wildlife survey and gives RSPB scientists insights into how our garden birds are faring
The number of nature lovers who took part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch more than doubled from 2020 this winter after a year of lockdown restrictions saw people turn to nature for comfort.
Now in its 42nd year, the Big Garden Birdwatch is a chance for people of all ages to count the number of birds that visit their garden helping the RSPB build up a picture of how they are doing. This year over a million people across the UK, including over 78,000 in Scotland, took part, counting 17 million birds.
Hopes were raised for a bumper participation this year after results from a YouGov survey revealed the pandemic is making the public more aware of nature, with 41% of people in Scotland believing the pandemic has made them more aware of the nature around them, and almost a third of people in Scotland (32%) saying they learnt something new about the wildlife in their local area.
The YouGov survey of 2,071 adults across the UK revealed 63% of people said watching the birds and hearing their song added to their enjoyment of life since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, including 55% of people in Scotland.
When the final Big Garden Birdwatch results were counted, RSPB Scotland was blown away by the phenomenal response from the public. Over the first three days of submissions alone, numbers were up 85% compared to the same time period in 2020.
Anne McCall, Director of RSPB Scotland said: “I am absolutely delighted with the number of people who have taken part in this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch, making it the biggest year ever for RSPB Scotland. Of course, this has generated a massive amount of data which will help our scientists with important conservation work, but it also shows how many of us have turned to nature after what has been a very difficult 12 months.
“Whether you have been taking part in Big Garden Birdwatch for many years, or if you have only just found your connection with nature, I hope spending an hour watching the birds in your garden or from your window has brought you comfort.
“As the signs of spring start to emerge up and down the country, know that nature will always be there for us, but we must protect it. We need every voice raised to stand up for nature. The wildlife that brings us so much interest and solace is now just a fraction of what should be there. Big Garden Birdwatch has shown that people across Scotland have a real passion for their local wildlife, we now need the Scottish Government to take the global leadership, policy and legislative opportunities open to it this year to reverse the decline and restore nature now.”
The event held over the last weekend in January revealed the house sparrow held on to its number one spot, but 10 out of the top 20 bird species showed declines in average numbers in Scotland compared to last year.
Over its four decades, Big Garden Birdwatch has highlighted which species are thriving and which are struggling in the garden bird world. It was first to alert the RSPB to the decline in song thrush numbers, which are still down 78% in the UK 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 20th in the rankings this year, seen in just 13% of Scottish gardens.
The house sparrow remained at the top of the Big Garden Birdwatch rankings as the most commonly seen garden bird in Scotland, with more than 250,000 recorded sightings throughout the weekend. Starlings remained in 2nd place, but numbers were down 14% compared to 2020. Goldfinches saw the greatest decline in Scotland’s top 10, falling four places from 6th position last year, with reported numbers 47% fewer than 2020.
Beccy Speight, RSPB CEO said: “One way you can help revive our world is to bring nature to you. Your garden, balcony, and even windowsill are potential havens for wildlife, and in April we’re launching a digital platform, Nature on Your Doorstep, to help show you how.”
Throughout the first half of the spring term the nation’s school children took part in the RSPB’s Big Schools Birdwatch. The UK-wide survey of birds in school grounds saw over 21,000 school children and their teachers spend an hour in nature counting the birds, with over 100 schools in Scotland getting involved. Woodpigeon was the most numerous species seen with an average of 9 per school; and was seen in 85% of all schools that took part. Blackbird was a close second with an average of 8 per school.
For a full round-up of all the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch results and to see which birds were visiting gardens where you live, visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch
Visit www.rspb.org.uk/yourdoorstep for more information on Nature on Your Doorstep.