How are our garden birds faring?

We take a look at the results of the world’s largest garden wildlife survey

Every year, nature enthusiasts across the UK take part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, the world's largest garden wildlife survey.

In 2024, the data revealed some fascinating insights into the number of birds in UK gardens, as well as how individual species are faring. 

With a staggering 9.7 million birds counted thanks to over 610,000 participants, the Big Garden Birdwatch continues to grow in scale and importance. Since its inception in 1979, over 12.1 million hours have been dedicated to observing and counting birds, highlighting the enduring passion for wildlife conservation.

Let's take a look at this year's numbers...

The most common birds

The leaderboard of the Big Garden Birdwatch 2024 showcases both familiar faces and some notable shifts. The House Sparrow retains its crown as the most commonly sighted garden bird, followed closely by the Blue Tit and Starling. Woodpigeons, Blackbirds, Robins and Great Tits are the next most commonly seen, followed by Goldfinches, Magpies and Long-tailed Tits. 

However, trends are not static; some species, like the Great Tit, have seen positive movements, while others, such as the Goldfinch, have experienced a decline in rankings, and Chaffinches haven't made the top ten list since 2022.

British bird species in decline

While the Big Garden Birdwatch provides a snapshot of bird populations, it also serves as a reminder of the challenges many species face.

Take, for example, the House Sparrow - despite being so commonly seen in our gardens, this iconic bird has experienced a significant decline in breeding numbers over the last five decades. Listed as red on the Birds of Conservation Concern list since 2002, concerted efforts are needed to reverse its fortunes. You can help House Sparrows by letting an area of your garden grow wild to encourage insects, and platning species like hawthorn and ivy to give House Sparrows somewhere to hide. 

Greenfinches are also under threat, and have witnessed a distressing 93% decline in their population since 1993. Greenfinches are also on the red list of Birds of Conservation Concern. One of the reasons behind their dropping numbers is due to an outbreak of trichomonosis, a disease that spreads through contaminated food and water sources. By keeping our garden feeding stations, bird tables, and baths clean, we can play an important part in reviving the presence of this vibrant species in our gardens. 

How to help garden birds

The drop in our garden bird numbers is linked to wider threats to biodiversity for our wildlife. From habitat loss to changes in farming practices, the challenges are growing.

However, there is hope. Conservation efforts, supported by organizations like the RSPB, have demonstrated that when communities unite for nature, remarkable recoveries are possible. Species once on the brink of extinction in the UK have been successfully reintroduced, emphasising the power of collective action in conservation.

At home, you can create bird-friendly habitats in our green spaces by letting parts of your garden grow wild - this provides a vital habitats for insects, a crucial food source for many birds. If you feed the birds in your area, consider using different types of feeders and food. Hang plastic feeders filled with sunflower hearts for Finches and Sparrows, while mesh feeders with peanuts are ideal for Tits.

Fat balls in mesh feeders also appeal to Tits and Sparrows, but avoid using nylon mesh bags for peanuts and fat balls (like the packaging they are often sold in), as this can trap birds' feet or beaks, causing injuries. 

For agile species like Tits, Nuthatches, and Woodpeckers, fill holes or cracks in posts or suspended logs with suet. Ground-feeding birds like Thrushes and Dunnocks prefer food scattered on the lawn or placed in ground feeding trays away from cover to avoid predators. It's a good idea to feeding locations regularly, especially in snowy conditions, to minimise competition among birds. Always avoid giving birds salted food (it dehydrates them), cooked food (it can attract pests like rats) or dry hard food like bread (as baby birds can choke on it).

Each of us has a role to play in ensuring that our garden birds continue to thrive for generations to come.

The Big Garden Birdwatch not only offers a glimpse into the lives of our feathered neighbours, but also serves as a call to action for conservation. By understanding the trends and challenges facing garden birds, we can take steps to safeguard their future.