RSPB survey reveals golden spell for the goldfinch
- Credit: John Bridges (rspb-images.com)
Big Garden Birdwatch results show East Anglian surge in sightings of many small birds
The colourful goldfinch struck gold in East Anglian gardens, results from the RSPB’s latest Big Garden Birdwatch show.
Sightings of the species surged in the mass-participation event held over the last weekend of January, thanks to favourable weather conditions that also helped long-tailed tits, coal tits and many other garden birds.
But the results revealed a dip in sightings of more solitary species such as blackbird and robin as the mild winter meant they spent more time foraging for food away from gardens, the society said.
Almost 63,000 people in the east of England took part in the survey, counting more than one million birds and contributing to a national total of 6.7 million individuals being logged by nearly half a million people across the country.
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Assessments of data revealed an increase in sightings of smaller birds, such as goldfinch, long-tailed tit and coal tit that can usually be seen visiting gardens and outside spaces in mixed flocks, said the RSPB. In the east of England, goldfinch sightings rose by 14% on 2017 figures and it was seen in more than 35% of the region’s gardens. Other small birds thought to have benefited from the mild January weather include long-tailed tit (+9%), coal tit (+22%), and blue tit (+7%).
It also proved to be a good year for the greenfinch after a 14% rise in sightings regionally, a welcome sign for a species that has undergone a 60% decline in UK sightings since the first survey in 1979.
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The influx of such species to gardens is thought to be linked to favourable conditions during their successful breeding season in 2017. This, combined with the kind autumn and winter weather in the run-up to the event will have contributed to the rise in sightings.
The survey highlighted a regional dip in blackbird sightings (-21%) as well as robins (-13%) and wrens (-20%) on last year’s figures.
In the East, the house sparrow remained at the top of the Big Garden Birdwatch rankings. Starling was again second and, despite a decrease in sightings, the blackbird also remained in the top three.
Throughout the first half of the spring term the nation’s schoolchildren took part in the RSPB’s Big Schools Birdwatch. More than 7,800 pupils in the East spent an hour counting the birds. Despite the drop in Big Garden Birdwatch sightings, the blackbird remained top of the Big Schools Birdwatch rankings with one being seen in 88% of schools – a 22% increase on 2017.
Full Big Garden Birdwatch results can be viewed at www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch