One Million Take Part in Record-Breaking RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

The number of nature lovers who took part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch soared to a million people this winter after a year of lockdown restrictions saw people turn to nature for comfort.

The Big Garden Birdwatch is now in it’s 42nd year. And it gives people of all ages a chance to count the number of birds that visit their garden. In doing so, it helps the RSPB build up a picture of how birds are faring. This year, over a million people across the country took part counting 17 million birds. And over 75,000 of those taking part were from Yorkshire.

Hopes were raised for a bumper participation year after results from a YouGov survey revealed the pandemic is making the public more aware of nature in their local area. 41% saw wildlife near their homes over the last 12 months that they had never noticed before.

A total of 2,071 adults too the YouGov survey across the UK. And it revealed 63% of people said watching the birds and hearing their song added to their enjoyment of life since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. And more than half of those surveyed believe the pandemic has made them more aware of the nature around them.

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

“Phenomenal response”

When the final Big Garden Birdwatch results were counted, the RSPB was blown away. There was a phenomenal response from the public. Over the first three days of submissions alone, numbers were up 85% compared to the same time period in 2020.

Beccy Speight is the RSPB CEO. She said: “We have been blown away by the enthusiasm with which people have taken part in the Birdwatch this year. Lockdowns have brought few benefits, but the last year has either started or reignited a love of nature for many people; right on their doorsteps. 

“This winter has been a bleak ordeal. But as the dawn chorus starts to burst into song and the blossom starts to flower from the trees once more, we are emerging from this pandemic a new generation of nature lovers.

“We hope the Birdwatch has kindled a new passion for wildlife for the thousands who took part for the first time this year. We need every voice raised to stand up for nature. The wildlife that gave us so much interest and solace is now just a fraction of what should be there. On the back of this wave of public support, we need the government to take the global leadership, policy and legislative opportunities open to it this year to reverse the decline and restore nature now.”

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

“Follow the countryside code”

The charity is also urging members of the public to take care as they return to the countryside near them as nature’s busiest season is underway. As breeding season begins, birds and other wildlife could be nesting nearby. And over half of England’s most threatened breeding birds are either nesting on or near the ground. To be sure to help the wildlife near you this spring, be sure to follow the Countryside Code when exploring your local area.

The Big Garden Birdwatch, which was held over the last weekend in January, revealed that nationally the house sparrow held on to its number one spot. But 16 out of the top 20 bird species showed declines in average counts compared to last year. Starling slid down the ranking from 2nd place for the first time since 2010, with numbers down 83% since 1979. Further national declines were recorded for greenfinch and chaffinch. The lowest average for both types of bird ever recorded during the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. Only robins, blackbirds, carrion crows and the song thrush saw an increase on 2020 across the UK.

Over its four decades, RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch has highlighted the winners and losers in the garden bird world. It was first to alert the RSPB to the decline in song thrush numbers. Those numbers are still down 78% 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. But it came in at 20th in the rankings this year, seen in just 9% of gardens.

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

“Havens for wildlife”

The house sparrow remained at the top of the Big Garden Birdwatch rankings in Yorkshire as the most commonly seen garden bird. Found in over 60% of Yorkshire gardens, across the country more than 2.6 million house sparrows were sighted throughout the weekend. Meanwhile, starlings and blackbirds joined house sparrows to form the top three most sighted birds in Yorkshire.

Beccy added: “One way you can help revive our world is to bring nature to you. Your garden, balcony, and even windowsill are potential havens for wildlife. And in April we’re launching a digital platform, Nature on Your Doorstep, to help show you how.”

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 over 21,000 school children and their teachers spend an hour in nature counting the birds. Woodpigeon was the most numerous species seen with an average of 9 per school; and was seen in 85% of all schools that took part. Blackbird was a close second with an average of 8 per school.

For a full round-up of all the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch results; and to see which birds were visiting gardens where you live, visit

Discover more about the RSPB’s exciting new Nature on Your Doorstep resources here:


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