Welsh public sticks with nature - as the Jay storms up the charts

Friday 8 April 2022

House Sparrow remains number one, but this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch survey saw a big rise in the number of Jays recorded and a glimmer of hope for the Red-listed Greenfinch.

Fersiwn Gymraeg ar gael yma

Big Garden Birdwatch is the world’s largest wildlife survey and gives RSPB scientists insights into how our garden birds are faring.

36,269 people return 21,368 surveys in Wales, showing a vast improvement compared to pre-Covid lockdown numbers

Now in its 43rd year, RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch is a chance for people of all ages to count the number of birds that visit their garden helping the RSPB get a snapshot of how they are doing. This year over 36,000 people took part in Wales, counting 71,2641 birds.

While 2021’s birdwatch took place while Wales was in lockdown, returning an abnormally massive number of surveys, we’re glad to say that we’ve seen many of those people stick around for another year, as we saw over 36,000 people take part a vast improvement on just over 24,000 in 2020. Over the last two years, many people have embraced the nature on their doorstep, and we’re thrilled to see so many continuing to do so.

As expected, the House Sparrow held on the top spot, but the surprise of this year came from the Jay, swooping up the charts 11 places to number 22 - a whopping 296% increase compared to 2021 numbers. Each autumn, Jays, a colourful member of the crow family, can often be seen flying back and forth finding and hiding acorns to help see them through the winter. These are then hidden in the cracks and crevices of trees, but also in leaf litter on the ground. An individual jay can store around 8,000 acorns each year and many remain buried to grow into oak trees.

RSPB Cymru’s Director, Alun Prichard, said:

“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 reports 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.”

Big Garden Birdwatch results also found a small increase in Greenfinch compared to 2021. This gives scientists a glimmer of hope that this might be the first signs of a popuation recovery, but only time will tell. In recent years the Greenfinch has suffered a population crash (62% in the UK since 1993) caused by a severe outbreak of the disease trichomonosis and as a consequence the species was added to the UK Red list last year. This infection is spread through contaminated food and drinking water, or by birds feeding one another with regurgitated food during the breeding season. Garden owners can help slow transmission rates by temporarily stopping the provision of food if ill birds are seen and making sure that garden bird feeders are cleaned regularly.

The House Sparrow remained at the top of the Big Garden Birdwatch rankings as the most commonly seen garden bird with 141, 850 recorded sightings throughout the weekend. The Starling and the Blue Tit remained in the number two and three positions respectively.

Over its four decades, Big Garden Birdwatch has highlighted the winners and losers in the garden bird world. It was first to alert the RSPB to the decline in song thrush numbers, which are still down 81% 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, and it came in at 23 in the rankings this year, seen in just 12.3% of Welsh gardens.

Throughout the first half of the spring term the nation’s school children took part in the RSPB’s Big Schools Birdwatch. It saw amost 2,971 school children and their teachers spend an hour in nature counting the birds - with the Blackbird once again keeping it’s spot at the top as the most seen bird in Welsh schools.

Alun added:

“Our hope is that we can continue to gather such resounding support and momentum as we’ve seen with the Birdwatch in Wales - going onwards and upwards towards a green recovery which sees us put nature at the centre of all different aspects of how Wales as a country operates - be that our environment, our health or our economy. After all, this year is a critical one for Wales’ nature and climate, as the Welsh Government introduce new legislation through the Agriculture Bill.”

For further information and to arrange an interview, please contact:

Rhys Aneurin, Communications Officer: 07712 519100 / rhys.aneurin@rspb.org.uk

Carwyn Evans, Communications Officer: 07761 331050 / carwyn.evans@rspb.org.uk   


Images to support this story are available from RSPB Images. Please click on the link below and when prompted, type in the username and password.


Username: Garden        
Password: Birdwatch


Editor’s notes:

1.       The RSPB is 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.

Last Updated: Friday 8 April 2022

Tagged with: Country: Wales Country: Wales Topic: Family Topic: School Topic: Birds Topic: Garden habitat Topic: Wildlife spectacles Topic: Campaigns Topic: Wildlife Topic: Wales Topic: Wales Topic: Bird species