Garden bird survey gives glimmer of hope for Greenfinch


A small increase in the number of Greenfinches seen during this year's Big Garden Birdwatch has offered conservationists a glimmer of hope that its population might be starting to recover.

The UK's Greenfinches have been hit hard by a severe outbreak of the disease trichomonosis over the past couple of decades, with the species now Red-listed following a 62% population crash since 1993.

The infection is spread through contaminated food and drinking water, or by birds feeding one another with regurgitated food during the breeding season. Garden owners can help slow transmission rates by temporarily stopping the provision of food if ill birds are seen and making sure that garden bird feeders are cleaned regularly.

Greenfinch is now Red-listed in the UK following a 62% decline since 1993 (Irene Harrison).

Meanwhile, it was House Sparrow that held on to top spot in this year's RSPB-run wildlife survey. There were more than 1.7 million recorded sightings of the species throughout the weekend, meaning that House Sparrow ensured Blue Tit and Common Starling remained in second and third positions respectively.

Jay made a surprise assault on the charts following last autumn's big movement, which was assumed to be largely driven by the failure of acorn crops. It moved up nine places to 23rd, with a 73% increase in sightings compared to the 2021 survey.

RSPB Chief Executive, Beccy Speight, commented: "We don't know the reasons for the sudden increase in Jay sightings this year. It may be down to food availability as we have reports that last year was poor for acorns, but whatever the reason a sighting of this stunning bird is enough to raise one's spirits any day of the year let alone on a gloomy January weekend.

"It's been brilliant to see so many people taking part again this year, taking time out to watch and reconnect with birds and then generously submit their sightings to help RSPB scientists gain some insights into how our garden birds are faring."

Jay numbers were well up in gardens in 2022 (Clive Daelman).

Now in its 43rd year, RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch is a chance for people of all ages to count the number of birds that visit their garden helping the RSPB get a snapshot of how they are faring. This year almost 700,000 people took part across the UK, counting more than 11 million birds.

Over those four decades, Big Garden Birdwatch has highlighted the winners and losers in the garden bird world. It was first to alert the RSPB to the nationwide decline in Song Thrush numbers, which are still down 81% compared to the first Big Garden Birdwatch in 1979. This species was a firm fixture in the top 10 in 1979. By 2009, its numbers were less than half those recorded in 1979 and it came in at 20 in the rankings this year, seen in just 8% of gardens.

Throughout the first half of the spring term the nation's school children took part in the RSPB's Big Schools Birdwatch. The UK-wide survey of birds in school grounds saw amost 60,000 school children and their teachers spend an hour in nature counting the birds. Woodpigeon was the most numerous species seen, with an average of eight per school and recorded at 83% of all schools that took part. Blackbird was a close second, with an average of seven per school.

Beccy Speight added: "Connecting with nature doesn't have to stop with Big Garden Birdwatch. Spring sees the return of Nature's biggest music festival, the dawn chorus, with national and international stars coming together to perform their biggest hits right on your doorstep.‚Äč Open your back door, a window or simply step outside and listen. Share your Dawn Chorus experience with us on social media using #DawnChorusDay."

Dawn Chorus Day takes place on Sunday 1 May 2022. The RSPB will also be hosting special Dawn Chorus events on its nature reserves. Find out more at www.rspb.org.uk/dawnchorus.