Help wanted for garden bird health check

Starlings take a bath in a puddle outside Leeds Market.  Picture: Simon Hulme
Starlings take a bath in a puddle outside Leeds Market. Picture: Simon Hulme
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MORE THAN half a million people located across the UK will provide a vital snapshot of nature by taking part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch later this month.

The conservation charity is encouraging more people in the region to sign up and help carry out the nation’s largest annual count of garden birds over the weekend of January 30-31.

Over 8.5million birds were counted by participants keeping a close eye on their gardens at the same time last year when the blackbird was the most widely spotted bird; being seen in more than 90 per cent of gardens. The house sparrow was the most prominent in terms of individual sightings.

Twice as many people saw wrens last year than in 2014 and the highest number since 2006, but concerns about wider species’ declines were reinforced by sightings of song thrush, greenfinches and starlings, among others, all being down on a year earlier.

The song thrush and starling are on the RSPB’s ‘red list’ of threatened species and the fall in starling numbers is particularly stark, with sightings down by 80 per cent since the charity’s first Birdwatch in 1979. Conservationists are urgently researching the reasons for their decline.

Chris Collett, communications manager for the RSPB in the North of England, said there 
are two main reasons why the charity asks people to take part.

“The first reason is that what it does is give us a really good picture of what bird species are doing well and which are struggling. Identifying the problem is the first step towards solving the issue.

“Secondly, it’s a great way to engage people with nature. Fewer and fewer children are having contact with nature and this is the first step to getting families involved in nature - and it’s great fun and easy to do.”

For information about how to take part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, visit