Warm winter boosts small garden birds in Yorkshire

Tens of thousands of starlings start their murmuration. PIC: PATens of thousands of starlings start their murmuration. PIC: PA
Tens of thousands of starlings start their murmuration. PIC: PA
England's warmest winter since records began some 106 years ago has delivered a welcome boost to populations of small garden birds.

More than 500,000 people, including 34,000 in Yorkshire, helped the RSPB record a total of 8.2m birds during its annual Big Garden Birdwatch at the end of January - and smaller species were found to have survived in greater numbers than usual over winter.

The average number of long-tailed tits seen visiting gardens was up by 44 per cent on last year, but sightings of starlings - despite high numbers in Yorkshire - and song thrushes dropped again this year.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Since the first count in 1979, the number of both species visiting gardens has fallen by 81 and 89 per cent respectively.

Dr Daniel Hayhow, a conservation scientist at the RSPB, said: “The weather can have varied effects on different groups of birds in terms of behaviour and habitats used.

“The increase in long-tailed tit sightings, along with other smaller garden birds, just goes to show that, in the absence of very cold weather, these species can survive the winter months in much greater numbers.”

Provisional Met Office figures show this winter was a record breaking season in England and Wales, and the third-warmest winter for the UK overall.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Dr Hayhow said: “The warmer temperatures have made it easier to find food, like insects, which in previous colder winters would have been harder to come by because of frosts and snow.”

He said that the increased sightings of smaller garden birds highlights the importance of well-stocked bird feeders.


House sparrows were recorded the most in Yorkshire gardens by people taking part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch on January 30-31, with an average number per garden of 4.47.

Starlings were the second most seen at 3.15 per garden, followed by blackbirds (2.99), blue tits (2.49) and woodpigeons (2.12).

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Next in the rankings came the goldfinch (1.73), the great tit (1.41) and the robin (1.30). Both the collared dove and the chaffinch were recorded by regional participants as appearing in average numbers of 1.23.

The charity’s count is the UK’s largest citizen science survey.