Bird feeders in the garden

Everything you need to know about Big Garden Birdwatch

Big Garden Birdwatch is the world's largest garden wildlife survey. We've got everything you need to know about joining in!

What's the history of Big Garden Birdwatch?

Let's rewind the clock and start at the beginning!

It's 1979 and we're looking for a simple winter activity that our junior membership can get involved in. As it's likely to be cold and the evenings dark, we think a weekend activity in the garden would be best.

So, we asked our members to count the birds in their gardens, all at the same time, so we could work out what the UK's top 10 most common garden birds are.

Biddy Baxter - then editor of Blue Peter - liked the idea so much that she featured the survey on one of the programmes. We only expected a few hundred children to take part but, thanks to Biddy's coverage, we actually received more than 34,000 forms!

And that's how our 'one-off' activity grew into the regular event it is today. Although it wasn't until 2001 that we invited adults to join in the fun, too.

Great tit Parus major, feeding on suet coated sunflower hearts, from ground feeding table

How does Big Garden Birdwatch help?

For nearly 40 years, we've been asking you to count the birds in your garden – and you've been brilliant at it.

With over half a million people now regularly taking part, coupled with almost 40 years worth of data, Big Garden Birdwatch allows us to monitor trends and helps us understand how birds are doing.

As the format of the survey has stayed the same, the scientific data can be compared year-on-year, making your results very valuable to our scientists.

With results from so many gardens, we are able to create a 'snapshot' of bird numbers across the UK. 

While some changes in bird numbers can seem scary - we've lost more than half our house sparrows and some three-quarters of our starlings - it isn't all doom and gloom. Since Birdwatch began blue tit numbers have risen by 20 per cent and the woodpigeon population has increased by a whopping 800 per cent.

Your results help us spot problems, but more importantly, they are also the first step in putting things right. This is why it's so important that we count garden birds.

Greenfinch, Carduelis chloris, male perched on blossom

What about other wildlife?

The threats to our wildlife means that it's not just birds facing tough times... it's our badgers, snakes and other animals too. So to help us get a more complete picture of the state of our wildlife, in 2014 we started to ask you to tell us about some of the other animals in your gardens. 

We're going to continue including this part of the survey each year now, to help us see the trends in our other wildlife in the same way that we've been able to with birds.

The more people involved, the more we can learn, so please encourage your family, friends and neighbours to take part.

Juvenile Grass snake

When does Big Garden Birdwatch take place?

The Big Garden Birdwatch takes place at the end of January each year. It takes place over three days, so if you're busy over the weekend or perhaps the weather's bad, you have the option of a third day! 

Maybe you can do Big Garden Birdwatch at work? We'd love to hear from you if you do!

Share your experiences on social media - don't forget to use #BigGardenBirdwatch.

Paper forms & FAQs