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1 million take part in record-breaking RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch - RSPB

family standing big patio windows looking out at a garden
Family observing wildlife from indoors, Big Garden Birdwatch. Image: Rahul Thanki / rspb-images.com

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.

Now in its 42nd year, the Big Garden Birdwatch is a chance for people of all ages to count the number of birds that visit their garden helping the RSPB build up a picture of how they are doing. This year over a million people across the UK took part, counting 17 million birds.

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

The YouGov survey of 2,071 adults across the UK 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, with more than half of those surveyed (51%) believing the pandemic has made them more aware of the nature around them.

When the final Big Garden Birdwatch results were counted, the RSPB was blown away by the 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.

The event held over the last weekend in January revealed 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. Only robins, blackbirds, carrion crows and the song thrush saw an increase on 2020.

Over its four decades, 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, which 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, it came in at 20th in the rankings this year, seen in just 9% of gardens.

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