Sparrows, blue tits and starlings top the list of birds spotted in UK gardens this year –but some once-common species are now in steep decline, experts have warned.

The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2024 has found woodpigeon populations are booming compared with 45 years ago, but the chaffinch is not doing so well.

And despite being the third most commonly sighted bird on the list, the colourful and chirpy starling is now on the UK Red List of most threatened species. 

Since last year, UK starling populations have fallen more than 10 per cent – but its long-term decline since the late 1970s is over 80 per cent, experts warn. 

Other birds in decline include the blackbird, the dunnock, the greenfinch and the robin, already dubbed Britain’s ‘national bird’.

The house sparrow is the most commonly seen bird in UK gardens, followed by the blue tit, the starling and the woodpigeon, according to RSPB¿s Big Garden Birdwatch 2024

The house sparrow is the most commonly seen bird in UK gardens, followed by the blue tit, the starling and the woodpigeon, according to RSPB¿s Big Garden Birdwatch 2024

The house sparrow is the most commonly seen bird in UK gardens, followed by the blue tit, the starling and the woodpigeon, according to RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2024

The house sparrow (Passer domesticus, pictured), which tops this year's list, is linked with human habitation and can live in urban or rural settings

The house sparrow (Passer domesticus, pictured), which tops this year's list, is linked with human habitation and can live in urban or rural settings

The house sparrow (Passer domesticus, pictured), which tops this year’s list, is linked with human habitation and can live in urban or rural settings

UK’s top five most common birds in 2024 

  1. House sparrow
  2. Blue tit
  3. Starling
  4. Woodpigeon 
  5. Blackbird
  6. Robin
  7. Great tit
  8. Goldfinch
  9. Magpie
  10. Long-tailed tit 

 

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The house sparrow (Passer domesticus) has held on to list’s top spot for an incredible 21 years running. 

This much beloved species frequents British feeders, nestboxes and hedges especially while raising their young in the springtime. 

On average there are four house sparrows per garden, the results show, followed by the blue tit (3.04 per garden), the starling (2.44 per garden) and the woodpigeon (2.32 per garden).

However, despite being right at the top of the list, the house sparrow has seen an alarming long-term decline. 

According to the charity, the average number of house sparrows in UK gardens since 1979 has fallen 60 per cent.

For the starling, meanwhile, populations have fallen even more severely since then (a 83.7 per cent decline), as well as the chaffinch (73.5 per cent decline) and the greenfinch (68.7 per cent decline). 

RSPB experts at the bird charity warn that we’re facing a ‘nature crisis’ where more species than ever are threatened by extinction. 

Last year’s State of Nature report found that there’s been no let-up in the decline of our wildlife over recent decades, with one in six species at risk of being lost from Britain. 

Stunning: Starlings have glossy black feathers with iridescent markings that shine blue and green in the sunlight

Stunning: Starlings have glossy black feathers with iridescent markings that shine blue and green in the sunlight

Stunning: Starlings have glossy black feathers with iridescent markings that shine blue and green in the sunlight

The blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) is one of Britain's most attractive and most recognisable garden visitors. Fortunately, blue tit numbers are not in decline, unlike other birds on the list

The blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) is one of Britain's most attractive and most recognisable garden visitors. Fortunately, blue tit numbers are not in decline, unlike other birds on the list

The blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) is one of Britain’s most attractive and most recognisable garden visitors. Fortunately, blue tit numbers are not in decline, unlike other birds on the list

To help save the birds, RSPB urges householders to provide food, shelter and water for wildlife, and to stop using chemicals and peat-based compost. 

‘With seven out of eight households lucky enough to have access to a garden, it is the place where many of us can make a positive difference to the ongoing nature crisis,’ RSPB chief executive Beccy Speight said. 

‘Gardens and community green spaces can both give a crucial lifeline for struggling species by providing a huge patchwork of potential homes for nature.’ 

Other iconic birds in the list are the blackbird, which has also experienced a big long-term decline since 1979 – of 50.9 per cent.

Likewise, the festive robin has seen a 25.1 per cent long-term decline, although they are they are ‘doing OK’ more generally across the UK, a spokesperson told MailOnline.

On a more positive note, several species have seen sizeable long-term increases in numbers, such as the woodpigeon (a 1058.8 per cent increase since 1979) and the coal tit (247.7 per cent increase). 

The massive rise in woodpigeon numbers may be due to the spread of intensive winter cereal and oil seed rape cultivation, which likely has increased food availability over winter, the spokesperson said. 

Common sight: The woodpigeon - UK's largest and most common pigeon - can be tame and approachable in towns and cities

Common sight: The woodpigeon - UK's largest and most common pigeon - can be tame and approachable in towns and cities

Common sight: The woodpigeon – UK’s largest and most common pigeon – can be tame and approachable in towns and cities

The robin (Erithacus rubecula), which was officially voted 'the UK's national bird in 2015, is considered an emblem of the festive season

The robin (Erithacus rubecula), which was officially voted 'the UK's national bird in 2015, is considered an emblem of the festive season

The robin (Erithacus rubecula), which was officially voted ‘the UK’s national bird in 2015, is considered an emblem of the festive season

This year, more than 600,000 people joined the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, the world’s largest garden wildlife survey, during a single weekend in January. 

They counted more than 9.5 million birds of 80 species.

To take part in Big Garden Birdwatch, members of the public have to spend one hour counting the birds they see in a single location – whether a garden, balcony or local park – and log their results online. 

The popular citizen science project provides a ‘snapshot’ of how garden birds are doing and is always held in January because that’s the time of the year ‘garden birds need us most’, according to the charity.

‘If it’s really cold, it’s likely more birds will come into our gardens looking for shelter and food,’ it says. 

The top 20 birds in 2024 RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 

Bird species and rank for 2024

1. House sparrow

2. Blue tit

3. Starling 

4. Woodpigeon 

5. Blackbird

6. Robin 

7. Great tit

8. Goldfinch

9. Magpie

10. Long-tailed tit

11. Chaffinch

12. Collared dove

13. Jackdaw

14. Feral pigeon 

15. Dunnock

16. Carrion crow

17. Coal tit

18. Greenfinch

19. Wren

20. Great-spotted woodpecker  

Average count per garden

4.00

3.04

2.44

2.32

1.96

1.50

1.45

1.33

1.24

1.06

0.80

0.79

0.79

0.78

0.72

0.69

0.66

0.31

0.27

0.11

 

 % of gardens species recorded

62.4

79.8

35.7

76.6

79.4

84.2

54.5

27.4

55.2

26.4

25.5

33.8

22.7

18.2

38.4

27.1

30.7

12.4

22.5

9.0 

 % change in avg. count since 2023

+6.7

+9.6

-11.9

+0.9

-10.5

-1.9

+4.8

-11.8

+2.8

+2.2

-15.8

-6.2

-9.1

-9.4

-18.1

+13.2

+14.3

-7.0

-7.5

+18.9

LONG TERM: Average per garden % change since 1979

1. House sparrow – 60.0 per cent decline

2. Blue tit – 24.4 per cent increase

3. Starling – 83.7 per cent decline

4. Woodpigeon – 1058.8 per cent increase

5. Blackbird – 50.9 per cent decline

6. Robin – 25.1 per cent decline

7. Great tit – 61.4 per cent increase 

8. Goldfinch Data not available

9. Magpie – 209.7 per cent increase

10. Long-tailed titData not available 

11. Chaffinch – 73.5 per cent decline

12. Collared dove – 181.3 per cent increase 

13. Jackdaw – Data not available

14. Feral pigeon – Data not available

15. Dunnock – 10.3 per cent decline 

16. Carrion crow – Data not available

17. Coal tit – 247.7 per cent increase 

18. Greenfinch – 68.7 per cent decline

19. Wren – 67.9 per cent increase 

20. Great-spotted woodpecker – Data not available

This post first appeared on Dailymail.co.uk

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