Two thirds of UK found solace in watching birds and hearing their song over lockdown, survey reveals ahead of Big Garden Birdwatch

Friday 29 January 2021

Results from a new survey commissioned by the RSPB have revealed the pandemic is making the public more aware of nature in their local area, with 41% seeing wildlife near their homes over the last 12 months that they had never noticed before.


The YouGov survey of 2,071 adults across the UK revealed 63% of people said watching the birds and hearing their song added to their enjoyment of life since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than half of those surveyed (51%) believing the pandemic has made them more aware of the nature around them.

This weekend (January 29-31) hundreds of thousands of people across the UK will celebrate their love of nature and unite to count their garden birds for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, the largest survey of its kind on the planet.


Since it first began 42 years ago, the Big Garden Birdwatch has not only given the wildlife charity an astonishing insight into how our garden wildlife is faring but has also helped the public forge a stronger connection with the nature on their doorsteps. This year we’ve seen how important the natural world is to our mental health as people have come to rely on their wild neighbours for solace in these unsettling times.


The RSPB’s survey also indicated people have been acting on their newly-strengthened connection with nature. Over two in five people (44%) said they had actively done something (such as putting out food and water) to help wildlife in their area over the past 12 months, and 42% had shared their experience of nature with other people.

Over the last year people’s eyes have been opened to the wildlife on their doorstep, the survey suggested, with over one third (36%) learning something new about wildlife in their local area.


Just over half the UK public (53%) has been feeding garden birds during the past 12 months. Two fifths (40%) of the UK public has been feeding garden birds at least once a week during the winter months, including one fifth (19%) that has been feeding them daily.


Beccy Speight, the RSPB’s Chief Executive, said: “Lockdowns have brought few benefits, but the last year has either started or reignited a love of nature for many people. Nature is soul-food to us humans. The results of this survey indicate we may emerge from this pandemic a new generation of nature lovers.


“We know the bleak winter weather has made lockdown restrictions feel unbearable for many. But we hope the Birdwatch will help lift spirits and remind people nature is an incredible, reassuring constant when everything else has been disrupted. Nature will get us through.


“By taking part in this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch you will be helping to build an annual snapshot of how our birdlife is doing across the UK, too. It is only by us understanding how our wildlife is faring that we can protect it. We know that nature is in crisis but together – along with the governments of the UK- we can all take action to revive our world.”


The RSPB is expecting a bumper year of participation having seen record-breaking interest for pre-registration this year. Big Garden Birdwatch is the perfect lockdown past time – you don’t need any special equipment and anyone can take part. It would not only make a great home-schooling activity for a Friday but also makes the perfect introduction to birdwatching and learning about nature.


This year’s event takes place on 29, 30 and 31 January 2021. The public is asked to spend just one hour watching and recording the birds in their garden or balcony then send their results to the RSPB. Close to half-a-million people join in the Birdwatch every year.


We’ll all be doing our Big Garden Birdwatch from home this year, but if you don’t have a garden, you can still get involved on social media. The RSPB is inviting people to join us for a weekend of live action with some very special guests, quizzes, how-to guides, wildlife Q&As and live cams. Guests include Chris Peckham and Megan McCubbin, Deborah Meaden, Miranda Krestovnikoff and Simon Mayo. Watch it all on YouTube from 9am on Saturday January 30 at http://bit.ly/BGBWLiveSat

Here are just a few highlights.
• Saturday 10am Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin, live from their garden in the New Forest.
• Sunday 10am Notes on Nature Live with special guests Deborah Meaden, Simon Mayo, Mike Dilger and Brigit Strawbridge Howard.
• Friday 7pm Big Garden Birdwatch Quiz on Facebook (RSPB Love Nature) hosted by RSPB president Miranda Krestovnikoff and Dr Amir Khan.


Just one hour every year, for the last four decades, has made the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch the largest garden wildlife citizen science project in the world. Now in its 42nd year, 144 million birds have been counted.
In 2020, nearly half a million people took part, counting almost eight million birds over a three-day period.
For four decades, Big Garden Birdwatch has highlighted the winners and losers in the garden bird world. The house sparrow remained at the top of the Big Garden Birdwatch rankings as the most commonly seen garden bird with nearly 1.3 million sighted in 2020. Starling held down the second spot once more, with the blue tit completing the top three.


While house sparrows and starlings may be the UK’s most commonly sighted birds, a closer look at Big Garden Birdwatch data shows that numbers have in fact dropped dramatically since the Birdwatch began in 1979. House sparrows are down 53% while starlings are down 80%. It’s a pattern echoed by two more garden favourites, with blackbirds and robins down 46% and 32% respectively.


To take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2021, watch the birds in your garden 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 rspb.org.uk/birdwatch

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