RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch turns 40

Allie McGregor

Friday 25 January 2019

Take part in the world’s largest garden wildlife survey

  • RSPB Scotland is celebrating 40 years of Big Garden Birdwatch.
  • Across the UK over 8 million hours have been spent watching garden birds since the Birdwatch began in 1979 with more than 130 million birds counted.
  • In the last decade alone, almost 400,000 people in Scotland have taken part
  • Taking part takes just one hour and provides RSPB Scotland with an annual snapshot into how our wildlife is faring.

RSPB Scotland is celebrating a very special anniversary of the world famous Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend (26-28 January).

Just one hour every year, for the last 40 years, has made the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch the largest garden wildlife citizen science project. During that time, across the UK hundreds of thousands of people have volunteered their time providing the RSPB with over 8 million hours of monitoring garden birds. Last year, over 500,000 birds were counted by Big Garden Birdwatchers in Scotland giving real insight into how our birds are faring.

Anne McCall, Director RSPB Scotland, said: “It’s amazing to see how Big Garden Birdwatch has grown from a winter activity for youth members into the largest garden wildlife survey worldwide. With thousands of participants across Scotland, it’s clear that people are truly passionate about their garden wildlife. It’s a huge achievement to reach 40 years of the survey, and it reflects what an enjoyable and accessible experience it is.”

This year’s event takes place on 26, 27 and 28 January 2019. The public is asked to spend just one hour watching and recording the birds in their garden or local green space, then send their results to RSPB Scotland. Last year 29,000 people in Scotland took part.

To mark the event, RSPB Scotland is encouraging participants to share their Big Garden Birdwatch stories. How will you #BigGardenBirdWatch? will showcase some of the best examples of how people take part from building their own birdwatching den, baking birdseed cakes and dressing up as Batman to see Robin.

Across 40 years, the survey has shown increases across the UK in collared dove and wood pigeon numbers and the alarming declines of the house sparrow and starling. While the overall decline in house sparrow numbers across the UK, reported by participants, since the Big Garden Birdwatch began is 57% (1979 – 2018), house sparrows were recorded in 76% of gardens in Scotland in 2018, up from 66% a decade ago.

Keith Morton, RSPB Scotland Senior Species Policy Officer, said: “Your garden can be hugely important for wildlife, especially in winter when it offers a vital source of food, water, and shelter to birds. Big Garden Birdwatch is an opportunity to capture information on the wildlife visitors to your garden in an enjoyable, easy and inclusive way. We are now in our 40th year of the survey which means the results not only allow us to understand how birds are doing now, but it also shows us long-term changes”

“Each year the number of people taking part across Scotland shows how passionate people are about their garden wildlife. The survey information you submit contributes to a community of thousands of Big Garden Birdwatchers who put significant effort into helping us monitor wildlife.”

As well as counting birds, participants are once again asked to log some of the other wildlife they have seen throughout the year. Some of the other wildlife participants may have seen over the last year include foxes, hedgehogs, or red squirrels. Across the UK just 6% of those taking part had seen a red squirrel in their garden in the past year, while in Scotland 37% reported they had.

Keith added: “Other garden wildlife in Scotland also faces challenges. Last year monthly sightings of frogs fell by 17.8% since they were surveyed four years ago. Only 16.9% of people saw toads in their gardens at least monthly, down 33% from when they were last surveyed in 2014. Including a variety of species in our survey every year helps us monitor how our other wildlife is doing.”

To take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2019, watch the birds in your garden or local park for one hour at some point over the three days. Only count the birds that land, not those flying over. Tell us the highest number of each bird species you see at any one time – not the total you see in the hour. Once you have recorded the birds that make a visit, submit your results online at

The parallel event, RSPB Big Schools’ Birdwatch takes place during the first half of spring term (2 January – 22 February 2019). Across Scotland, more than 5,000 children and teachers spent an hour in nature counting birds in 2018. Further information can be found at

Last Updated: Wednesday 8 December 2021

Tagged with: Country: Scotland Country: Scotland Topic: Scotland Topic: Scotland Topic: Big Garden Birdwatch