Birds seek refuge in Britain’s snowy gardens


The latest results from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) show Britain's birds are flooding into gardens, as food in the countryside becomes harder to find under the blanket of snow and ice. The results from the BTO Garden BirdWatch survey show huge increases in the use of gardens by birds as they come in search of an alternative source of food. For some species this increase has been dramatic. Redwing and Fieldfare, both types of thrush that breed in Scandinavia, have shown an increase in the use of gardens by 283% and 267% respectively compared with a normal winter.

It doesn't stop here though. For 40 species the percentage of gardens in which they occurred increased during the current snowy weather, with particularly large increases in thrushes and buntings. Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer, both small birds belonging to the bunting family that would ordinarily find refuge in Britain's farmland, have increased by 134% and 80% respectively!

Dr Tim Harrison, BTO Garden BirdWatch, commented, "It is amazing to see the dramatic effect the weather has had on our wild birds. The increase has been most marked in the ground-feeding species that are using the food put out by householders. Such provision could make the difference between life and death."

He added, "It's also thanks to our Garden BirdWatchers, who record the birds in their gardens every week throughout the year, that we can see how our birds are doing right across the UK during these extreme weather conditions."

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Fieldfare, Stourbridge, West Midlands (Photo: Rob Smith)

Due to the phenomenal numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings appearing in gardens, please note that BirdGuides do not need to receive further sightings of these species. The BTO will be very happy to receive any sightings via BirdTrack.

To see just how these birds are coping see Snow Watch on BBC2, Wednesday at 8.00pm.

The BTO Garden BirdWatch is the only nationwide survey of garden birds to run weekly throughout the year, providing important information on how birds use gardens, and how this use changes over time. Currently, some 15,000 people take part in the project. The project is funded by participants’ contributions and is the largest year-round survey of garden birds in the world. For more information see www.bto.org/gbw.


Written by: BTO