Sparrow most common bird in Suffolk

THE HUMBLE house sparrow is the commonest garden bird in Suffolk and Essex according to the results of this year's RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch survey.More than 23,000 people from the two counties were among the 400,000 nationally who took part.

THE HUMBLE house sparrow is the commonest garden bird in Suffolk and Essex according to the results of this year's RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch survey.

More than 23,000 people from the two counties were among the 400,000 nationally who took part.

The RSPB asked people to note the species and numbers of birds in their gardens during the weekend of January 24/25.

The results, now collated, show that the top ten birds nationally, and in Suffolk and Essex, were the same as last year - house sparrow, starling, blackbird, blue tit, collared dove, chaffinch, greenfinch, woodpigeon, great tit and robin.


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However, the house sparrow ousted the starling as the most common garden bird - nationally and locally.

But despite coming top of the poll, slightly fewer house sparrows were recorded this year than in 2003, a continuation of a worrying national decline for this species.

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Since the Big Garden Birdwatch event started 25 years ago house sparrow numbers have fallen from an average of ten to 4.8 per garden.

There has been an even steeper rate of decline in numbers of starling seen. Since 1979 the number of starlings have fallen from an average of 15 to 4.3 per garden.

There have also been declines in other common garden birds, including the blackbird, chaffinch, and robin.

But more birds from the other species are being seen, with blue tit numbers up 20% over the 25-year period, greenfinch up 84%, collared dove up 525%, great tit up 65% and woodpigeon up 594% .

The huge increases in collared doves and woodpigeons, two of the less shy species, is being partly attributed to the birds becoming more aware of the food being put out in gardens.

Nationally, 8.6 million birds were identified and counted during the Big Garden Birdwatch weekend.

Steve Rowland, RSPB birdwatch co-ordinator for Suffolk and Essex, said: "The efforts of so many people taking part in this event have once again revealed a fascinating insight into our garden birds."

nNesting sites for the rare stone curlew and sand martins have been carved out on an Army training ground.

Stanford training area (Stanta) at West Tofts, near Thetford, has an ongoing conservation program, working with English Nature and the RSPB to boost bird populations.

The 17th area of grass to be harrowed back to bare earth and strewn with flint - favoured by stone curlews because of the similarity to their eggs - was completed this week.

And the first stone curlew was seen on the area on Monday, raising hopes for bird enthusiasts for another good breeding season on Stanta.

Paul Holness, RSPB's Breckland volunteer and Stanta bird group chairman, said: "Five of the plots have been used, but only by a maximum of three pairs. They haven't always chosen the same site. It's a good start, but we need to crack on now to encourage more onto the site.

"The adults are coming in now from France and Spain. We already have one bird on the site. We just hope more breeding pairs come in."

Meanwhile commandant Keith Kiddie has made preparations for the 100 pairs of sand martins that have started making the training ground their home.

Lt Col Kiddie said sand martins started to nest in a pit dug out to fill soldiers' sand bags several years ago and now Stanta works around them.

"We scrape back the sand every spring as it has usually slipped into heaps during the winter, and that's no good for sand martins. They prefer a sheer cliff. The soldiers have got into the habit of filling their bags from the sand pile, rather than disturbing the birds," said Lt Col Kiddie.

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