RSPB Scotland Big Garden Birdwatch results are in

Thursday 31 March 2016

· Long-tailed tits seen in over a third of Scottish gardens

· Other garden birds that benefitted from the milder winter temperatures are great tits and coal tits

· House sparrows remain top of Big Garden Birdwatch in Scotland, with chaffinches and starlings rounding off the top three

· More than 36,000 people across Scotland took part in the 2016 Birdwatch counting 626,335 birds

Across Scotland over 36,000 people joined in the world's largest garden wildlife survey during the last weekend in January 2016. Participants counted 626,335 feathered visitors during the 37th RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, witnessing some exciting and interesting changes among the country's most popular garden birds.

The percentage of participants' gardens in Scotland that were visited by a long-tailed tit saw a massive 166% increase this year. The 2016 results show that over a third of gardens of those taking part (34%) recorded a long-tailed tit - that is up from 12.9% in 2015. The average number of these birds seen visiting gardens also increased by 17.9% this year.

RSPB experts are linking the rise in sightings of long-tailed tits, as well as other smaller gardens birds such as coal tits and great tits, to the milder weather in the months leading up to the Birdwatch. Small, insect-eating birds, like long- tailed tits, are particularly susceptible to the cold as the food they rely on is hard to come by in frosts and snow, so milder conditions are likely to have contributed to a higher survival rate.

Keith Morton, Species Policy Officer at RSPB Scotland, said: "2016 was another great year for Big Garden Birdwatch in Scotland. We'd like to say huge thank you to everyone who spent an hour of their weekend in January taking part; the data collected by you helps us build a better picture of how our gardens birds are faring year to year.

"Different birds are affected in different ways by the weather and this winter has seen milder temperatures and some very wet periods in parts of Scotland, although several areas did have a lot of snow fall over Big Garden Birdwatch weekend. The increase in smaller garden birds recorded, such as long-tailed tits, suggests that the lack of sustained cold weather helps these species survive in far greater numbers over the winter months. The food these birds rely on, such as insects, would have been easier to find, helping to boost the numbers of them spotted in Big Garden Birdwatch hour."

During periods of colder temperatures birds struggle to find food in the wider countryside so become more reliant on garden feeders. Long-tailed tits, and other smaller birds, have adapted to feeding on seeds and peanuts at bird tables or from hanging feeders.

Since 2006 the average number of long-tailed tits seen in UK gardens has increased by 52%, while great tit numbers have gone up by 13% and coal tits by 9%.

Keith Morton added: "These increases in smaller birds show how important well stocked feeders are for them. Although they might have found gathering food easier in the wild this winter, birds will still have needed the food people put out for them. Once a bird has found a reliable source of food it will keep coming back to it."

Despite this boost in numbers many other garden favourites are still struggling. In Scotland sightings of well known species such as starlings and song thrushes have experienced another drop during the Big Garden Birdwatch this year. This decline continues a trend that has seen the number of both species visiting UK gardens decline by 81% and 89% retrospectively since the first Birdwatch in 1979.

Keith Morton added: "Big Garden Birdwatch helps us understand the long term trends for our garden birds and many of our favourites are struggling. You can help them by making a home for nature in your garden or outdoor space. Watch how the birds use these areas - this will help guide you to where is best to place food and water for them, and where might be the ideal place for a nest box. Planting nectar rich plants can help not just birds but insects and mammals too."

Meanwhile, close to 7,500 school children in Scotland took part in the parallel survey, Big Schools' Birdwatch, spending an hour outdoors counting birds. Blackbirds remained the most common playground visitor with 86% of participating schools spotting one of these birds. The top three was rounded off by starlings in second place, and carrion crows in third.

Big Garden Birdwatch and Big Schools' Birdwatch are a part of the RSPB's Giving Nature a Home campaign, aimed at tackling the housing crisis facing the UK's threatened wildlife. The conservation charity is asking people to provide a place for wildlife in their outdoor space - whether it's putting up a nest box for birds, creating a pond for frogs or building a home for hedgehogs.

RSPB Scotland is part of the RSPB, the UK's largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.

2016 Scottish Big Garden Birdwatch results:

Rank

Species

Change in rank 2015-2016

Average per garden

% gardens

1

House sparrow

0

6.09

73.0

2

Chaffinch

+1

4.74

65.2

3

Starling

-1

4.25

48.4

4

Blackbird

0

2.84

90.9

5

Blue tit

0

2.83

78.4

6

Woodpigeon

+1

1.81

63.0

7

Great tit

+2

1.75

60.2

8

Robin

-2

1.60

91.5

9

Goldfinch

-1

1.53

28.6

10

Coal tit

+3

1.26

50.0

11

Dunnock

+1

0.99

49.7

12

Feral pigeon

-2

0.90

24.5

13

Jackdaw

+4

0.90

20.4

14

Carrion crow

-3

0.89

32.2

15

Collared dove

-1

0.86

33.5

16

Magpie

-1

0.80

14.7

17

Long-tailed tit

+1

0.77

34.2

18

Greenfinch

+1

0.73

23.9

19

Common gull

+4

0.37

10.6

20

Rook

+2

0.35

9.0

RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch survey is the largest citizen science survey in the UK and is a part of the RSPB's Centre for Conservation ScienceThe centre was set up with the aim of finding practical solutions to the most pressing conservation problems, whether it's working out how to save a species on the verge of extinction or restoring a destroyed rainforest.

2016 Scottish Big Schools Birdwatch results:

Rank

Species

Change in rank 2015-2016

% of schools

1

Blackbird

0

86.0

2

Starling

0

51.9

3

Carrion_crow

0

60.8

4

House_sparrow

0

61.3

5

BlackHeadedGull

+1

43.4

6

Herring_gull

+7

31.2

7

Chaffinch

+2

42.1

8

Magpie

+3

48.9

9

Robin

-1

75.2

10

Woodpigeon

+4

51.9

Tagged with: Country: Scotland Topic: Big Garden Birdwatch