11 Big Garden Birdwatch fascinating facts

Jasmine Granton

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Family recording bird visits, Big Garden Birdwatch

The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch is back! Our feeders are topped up, the bird bath is full and we’re ready to see which birds will visit the garden.

To keep us entertained in the run up to the 39th annual watch we’ve pulled together some of the best facts about the world’s largest wildlife survey for you to enjoy.  

1. Blue Peter was everyone’s favourite programme when they were younger but did you know it is closely linked with Big Garden Birdwatch? In 1978 we launched BGBW alongside Blue Peter to encourage young people to get outside in nature. Since then, it’s become an annual event for all ages with a people creating a combined total of 200 million hours watching and recording their garden birds – that’s over 8 million days!

2. Adults started to realise they were missing out on the Big Garden Birdwatch fun in the mid 80’s and the numbers of participants continued to grow. Oddly, the rise in participation coincided with the dramatic decline in sightings of the much loved song thrush. These birds sat at number 10 on the most spotted birds in 1979, last year they dropped to as low as number 27.

3. In 2001 The Big Garden Birdwatch was opened up to everyone meaning you could take part even if you weren’t a member of the RSPB. This doubled participants to 50,000 and numbers have continued to grow to 500,000.

4. This year we will expect a large amount of results online but in the first year RSPB staff had to sort through 34 bin liners of post – observations from BGBW sent in by the public. That’s an awful lot of paper to recycle! 

5. 2001 saw the start of Big Schools Birdwatch and since then, 2000 schools have been involved with 90,000 pupils and teachers getting out their binoculars to experience nature. If you’re a teacher and think your school might be missing out, there’s still time to register online here. 

6. The record number of species recorded over one Big Garden Birdwatch weekend was as many as 100! 

7. Big Garden Birdwatch has been launched from some surprising locations varying from The Royal Hospital, Chelsea to John Lennon’s back garden and in 2003 from 10 Downing Street with the help of the Prime Minister himself.   

8. There has been a decline in sightings for some of the UK’s favourite garden birds. Sightings of house sparrows have declined by 57% and starlings by 80% in UK gardens since 1979. Despite these decline in sightings they remain BGBW regulars in UK gardens and always make it into the top 5 birds.

9. Although the title of the annual event is Big Garden Birdwatch, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend your hour in a garden. In fact, BGBW hours have been done by people in narrowboats, a flat in a tower block, in a model village, and even from a prison.

10. Across Facebook and Twitter #BigGardenBirdwatch was used over 115,000 times. Join the conversation this year!

11. Every year we see some unusual and exotic birds that are seen visiting gardens across the country – and last year was no different. There was a huge increase in the number of waxwings seen visiting gardens in the UK in search of berries. Known as an ‘irruption’, it is thought they flocked to our shores because of a berry shortage in their native Scandinavia. Who knows what’ll turn up this year!

 Take part!

This year’s Big Garden Birdwatch takes place from Saturday 27 January to Monday 29 January. Over the years we’ve received data that’s helped create a 'snapshot' of bird numbers across the UK.  

We estimate that there could be a million eyes watching the garden this year and joining in with Big Garden Birdwatch is simple and enjoyable - and a great excuse to watch your garden birds. Here's our step-by-step guide...

Last Updated: Wednesday 1 May 2019

Request a pack

Big Garden Birdwatch pack shot
Take an hour to watch the birds in your garden or local park.

Will house sparrows stay in the top spot? Your Birdwatch counts! 

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