House sparrow rules in South Ayrshire

The house sparrow
The house sparrow

The House Sparrow was found to be the most popular garden bird in South Ayrshire this year after the RSPB’s big birdwatch.

An amazing 687 people in the region taking part this year found an average of five per garden with the bird spotted in 72 per cent of gardens in the area.

Across Scotland over 36,000 people joined in the world’s largest garden wildlife survey during the last weekend in January 2016. Participants counted 626,335 feathered visitors.

The chaffinch was second only to the house sparrow in Scotland as a whole where a rise in sightings of smaller gardens birds such as coal tits and great tits may be due to the milder weather in the months leading up to the Birdwatch.

Keith Morton, Species Policy Officer at RSPB Scotland, said: “We’d like to say huge thank you to everyone who spent an hour of their weekend in January taking part; the data collected by you helps us build a better picture of how our garden birds are faring year to year.

“Different birds are affected in different ways by the weather and this winter has seen milder temperatures and some very wet periods in parts of Scotland, although several areas did have a lot of snow fall over Big Garden Birdwatch weekend. The increase in smaller garden birds recorded, such as long-tailed tits, suggests that the lack of sustained cold weather helps these species survive in far greater numbers over the winter months. The food these birds rely on, such as insects, would have been easier to find, helping to boost the numbers of them spotted in Big Garden Birdwatch hour.”

During periods of colder temperatures birds struggle to find food in the wider countryside so become more reliant on garden feeders. Long-tailed tits, and other smaller birds, have adapted to feeding on seeds and peanuts at bird tables or from hanging feeders.

Despite this boost in numbers many other garden favourites are still struggling. In Scotland sightings of well known species such as starlings and song thrushes have experienced another drop during the Big Garden Birdwatch this year.

This decline continues a trend that has seen the number of both species visiting UK gardens decline by 81% and 89% retrospectively since the first Birdwatch in 1979.

Keith Morton added: “Big Garden Birdwatch helps us understand the long term trends for our garden birds and many of our favourites are struggling. You can help them by making a home for nature in your garden or outdoor space.

“Watch how the birds use these areas – this will help guide you to where is best to place food and water for them, and where might be the ideal place for a nest box.”