Three tips to help feathered friends before the Big Garden Birdwatch

A greenfinch on a seed feeder

People are urged to take simple steps to help feathered friends in their garden ahead of the annual Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend.

The RSPB, which runs what it says is the world’s largest survey of garden wildlife, said people should serve a mix of foods to attract different species, clean their tables and bird feeders and put fresh water.

The conservation charity offers a three-point plan to help birdwatchers taking part in the survey make their gardens as attractive as possible.

wood pigeon on a bird table
Wood pigeons are becoming more common, according to previous surveys (Chris Gomersall/RSPB/PA)

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to take part in the survey from Friday January 28 to Sunday January 30, when they will be asked to spend an hour watching birds in their backyard or balcony and recording the number of each species that ‘they see.

The RSPB says the survey, which has seen a record number of over a million wildlife enthusiasts take part amid the Covid-19 lockdown, is helping experts determine how birds are doing across the country .

A YouGov poll for the charity found that half of people (52%) feed wild birds during the year, with one in five feeding them daily during the winter.

But the survey, of 2,131 people, found that only half of those who used bird tables and a third of those who used feeders cleaned them at least every fortnight to keep them clean and prevent spread of diseases.

  • Put a mix of food to attract different species
  • Clean bird feeders and tables
  • Throw fresh water

The charity’s top tips for the Big Garden Birdwatch are:

– Provide clean, fresh water which birds need for drinking and bathing and which is especially important during the winter when nature reserves can be frozen over.

– Clean bird tables and feeders, washing them with a five percent disinfectant solution or warm soapy water, ideally once a week or whenever the feeder is filled.

– Bring out a variety of food to increase the number of species that frequent the garden, such as small seeds that attract house sparrows, speckled accents and finches, and peanuts and sunflower seeds that attract blue tits, chickadees great tits and greenfinches.

Beccy Speight, Chief Executive of the RSPB, said: “We know that for many people garden birds provide an important connection to the wider natural world and bring enormous joy.

“Over the past year, there has been a general and much-needed realization that nature is an important and necessary part of our lives, especially for our mental health and well-being.

“But nature also needs us and we want to help ensure that people provide the best possible deal for birds at a time when many species are in decline.”

Blue tit on a branch
Blue tits are one of the common birds recorded in the survey (Ray Kennedy/RSPB/PA)

Ms Speight added: ‘By taking part in Birdwatch you are helping to create an annual snapshot of the state of our birdlife across the UK.

“Only by understanding how our wildlife is doing can we protect it.”

Last year’s Birdwatch showed house sparrows were the most common species seen in gardens, followed by blue tits and starlings.

The 43-year-long survey shows the long-term fortunes of bird species.

Some of the garden’s most common visitors, such as house sparrows, blackbirds and robins, have declined significantly in number since 1979, while others, such as wood pigeons and great tits, have increased dramatically in numbers, according to previous surveys.

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