Irish Garden Bird Survey returns for 35th year


The 35th annual Irish Garden Bird Survey is underway, with homeowners across Ireland encouraged to submit their sightings.

The citizen science project commenced on 27 November and runs until the end of February 2023.

Last winter, European Robin once again proved the most frequently seen species, having occurred in 99% of gardens. However, in the counties of Wicklow, Offaly, Kildare and Antrim, robin was placed second to Blackbird.

Blue Tit and Magpie also occurred in more than 90% of Irish gardens, with Great Tit, Chaffinch, House Sparrow and Goldfinch in more than 80% of gardens. It proved to be the second-best year on record for House Sparrow, with BirdWatch Ireland suggesting a bumper breeding season as the cause of the increase in sightings.

Blackbird, Melbourne, Derbyshire (Tony Davison).

Brian Burke, Co-ordinator of the Irish Garden Bird Survey, commented: "Despite the temperatures being mild overall, we seem to be getting more storms and multiple short snowy spells in recent years, and these can be enough to deplete birds' fat reserves and put them under real pressure. Song Thrush occurred in an extra 12% of gardens last year owing to the snowy weather.

"So, these are the times when your garden birds really need you to provide food and water, and if you can put these out a few days before any snow hits then you're giving the birds a chance to realise it's there, so they know exactly where to go when the ground freezes over."

While some species populations remain relatively consistent and others, such as Great Spotted Woodpeckers, are even seeing increases, others are in decline. Coal Tit had its second-worst year on record last year, continuing a steady decline over the last 5-10 years in Irish gardens. The reason for this isn't fully clear and likely involves a range of factors but is something BirdWatch Ireland will be monitoring.

Brian Burke added: "Greenfinch have been lost from nearly 50% of gardens across the country. Nearly 10% of gardens that host Greenfinches in the winter will see birds afflicted with trichomoniasis, and we know it has put a dent in Chaffinch numbers too, so it's really important that survey participants keep an eye out for this and let us know about the sick birds they see."

Participating in the Irish Garden Bird Survey each winter is a simple and effective way of contributing to a crucial body of data that will help to guide conservation, while also increasing your bird knowledge. The survey is open to individuals, families, schools and even local community groups including Tidy Towns, Active Age and Scouts.

For more information on how to take part, visit birdwatchireland.ie.