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Types of bird food - mixed seed

The Big Garden Birdwatch 2022: tops tips and essential kit

Find out more about the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch that's taking place from 28th - 30th January

The world’s largest survey is taking place this weekend, and everyone’s invited to take part to help our British wildlife and see how many birds are perching on a bird feeder near you. So, if you have an hour to spare for a spot of bird watching, read on to find out how to do your bit…

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What is the Big Garden Birdwatch 2022?

The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch is an annual event that relies on wildlife enthusiasts to help as citizen scientists and record the number of garden birds that land in gardens or local green spaces across the UK. Last year over a million people took part and recorded over 17 million birds, which helped the RSPB create an accurate picture of how our feathered friends are getting on, as well as highlighting which species most need our help.

When is it?

The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, now in its 43rd year, takes place every January and runs over a weekend to allow as many people as possible to get involved. This year, it starts on Friday 28th and finishes on Sunday 30th January.

How do you take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch?

This is a fun activity for the whole family. Simply gather everyone together for an hour during the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch weekend and count the different birds that land in your chosen green space – this can be your garden, local park, or bird feeders on your balcony. Once the hour is up, submit your results on the RSPB’s website.

It’s a good idea to pre-register because there’s lots of expert advice to help you carry out your survey. And, if you can’t tell a sparrow from a starling, don’t worry, there’s a free guide to help you identify the different species. We’ve also put together helpful advice about identifying garden birds.

Watching garden birds is good for the soul. See if you can identify the different species that visit and make a note of where you see them in the garden – some prefer the shelter beneath hedges and among log piles, while others are happier up high in tree branches. Seeing where birds fit into your garden ecosystem will help you make better habitats for them, which will ultimately mean more birds.

BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Wildlife Editor, Kate Bradbury

Kate Bradbury

How to attract birds to your garden

At this time of year birds are more likely to visit gardens in search of much-needed food and shelter, so by providing a selection of tasty treats, you’re not only doing your bit to sustain local bird life but encouraging birds into your patch too. We’ve got some helpful information with a round up of nutritious feeds, along with our pick of the best bird feeders, bird tables and bird baths.

Make sure you’re ready for the weekend with some essential kit:

You can also introduce bird-friendly plants into your garden to provide berries, as well as protection and a place to nest. Read more about how to attract birds to your garden.

Which common garden birds might I spot during the Big Garden Birdwatch?

The type of birds that might visit your garden will largely depend on what type of food you put out, as well as which shrubs and plants you have in your garden. For example, goldfinches snack on sunflower and nyjer seeds, while blue tits prefer insects, seeds and nuts. Find out more about the different species you might see over the weekend.

Goldfinch on a bird feeder. Getty Images
Goldfinch on a bird feeder. Getty Images

What were the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2021 results?

Sadly, birdlife in the UK is struggling and according to the RSPB, our bird population has declined by a staggering 38 million over the last 50 years. The top ten birds from the 2021 survey included house sparrows, blue tits, starlings, blackbirds, woodpigeons, robins, great tits, goldfinches, magpies and long-tailed tits.

Last year saw greenfinches move onto the UK Red List for at-risk species, for the first time. Thought to be affected by a disease called trichomonosis, the RSPB are keeping a close eye on chaffinches and house sparrows as it’s feared they might be susceptible to this disease, too. While this is concerning, you can help by regularly cleaning your bird feeders to reduce the spread of this parasite.

Top tips for bird watchers:

New to bird watching? Here are a few suggestions to help you see as many birds as you can:

  • Stay quiet and still and observe visiting birds from a distance.
  • Invest in a pair of binoculars – the RSPB has an extensive range, as well as Jessops and Currys.
  • Consult a field guide to help identify common garden birds and find out where and when you’re most likely to see them. The RSPB has a selection of pocket guides, and you can also buy from Amazon and Waterstones.
  • Download a birdsong app onto your smartphone so you can identify different bird calls when you’re out and about.
  • Keep notes and take pictures with your smartphone or camera. It’s a useful record of the birds you’ve spotted and could also help you identify a species if you’re not quite sure what you’ve seen. You could also install a wildlife camera to see which birds visit when you’re not around.  Buy the RSPB Nature Camera from the RSPB or the Solognac BG100 from Decathlon.

Got the bird watching bug?

If you’re inspired by the Big Garden Birdwatch, why not introduce bird nesting boxes into your garden to provide the perfect habitat for our British garden birds? Different birds have different needs, so if you’re looking to introduce birds to your garden this way it’s a good idea to have a range of bird nesting boxes. You can also install a bird box camera and follow your feathered friends as they raise a family.

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Putting up a bird box? Monty Don shows you how in these two easy-to-follow video guides.