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Songbirds shun UK gardens

Milder winter temperatures behind drop in numbers


Fewer songbirds visited UK gardens during the 2007 winter – and blackbirds, song thrushes and robins were at their lowest levels for five years, according to a major survey.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) blamed milder winter temperatures across Europe and bumper fruit crops in hedgerows and woodlands which meant more birds feeding in the countryside and fewer visiting gardens.

The results come from the society’s 2007 Big Garden Birdwatch.

Lower migration to the UK has seen numbers of song thrushes and blackbirds spotted in gardens fall by nearly two thirds and a quarter respectively in a single year.

Climate change

Ruth Davis, the RSPB’s Head of Climate Change Policy, said: ‘As our climate changes the distribution of birds will change and they will adapt their behaviour.

‘A snap shot in winter gives only part of the picture, but the varying birds visiting our gardens is one example of the impact climate change is having on the natural world.

‘Although the mild winter seems to have provided more food for song thrushes in the countryside this year, as changes to our climate become more extreme, many birds will struggle to cope with the altered weather patterns. We can all help to minimise the impact of climate change by the action we take in our everyday lives.’

Participants in Big Garden Birdwatch also noted a decrease in the number of resident birds.

Greenfinches in particular have dropped four places down the Big Garden Birdwatch top ten, from sixth to tenth – a decline of more than a quarter since 2006.

Bird survey

Richard Bashford, the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch co-ordinator said: ‘Some birds were seen more often in gardens. Starlings and house sparrows showed small increases in the average number per garden. This is the third year in a row the starling has increased and we’re hopeful that this trend will continue.’

Over the weekend of January 27-28 more than 400,000 people counted more than 6.5 million birds across 236,000 gardens as part of the RSPB’s annual survey.

The house sparrow came out top with an average of 4.42 per garden, although its numbers have more than halved since 1979. The starling remained in second place and the blue tit completed the top three, with average numbers of 3.67 and 2.82 per garden respectively.

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