House sparrows still top the list of garden birds in county

A house sparrow
A house sparrow

A survey of birds in Northumberland gardens has seen a change in the top 10 species found in the area.

The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, in January, discovered some interesting changes among the most popular garden birds, with some species that benefit from a bit of extra help creeping up the rankings.

In Northumberland, the chaffinch climbed two places from fourth position, while the previous occupier of second place, blackbirds, dropped to third.

Blue tits moved up one place to fourth, starlings fell from third to fifth position and the collared dove climbed three places to ninth.

Goldfinches climbed an impressive twenty-six places to take sixth position this year and scientists believe that the increase in people providing food, like nyjer seed and sunflower hearts in gardens, may have contributed to their steady rise.

Scientists also believe that the weather has played a role in the ups and downs in this year’s top ten as many of the birds were recorded in lower numbers in gardens due to the mild conditions.

Some species, such as blue tits, were likely to be more reliant on food provided in gardens than others, such as blackbirds, which could easily find their favoured foods like worms and insects in the countryside.

Numbers of starlings and song thrushes have dropped by 39 and 95 per cent respectively in Northumberland.

Both species are on the UK ‘red list’ meaning they are of the highest conservation concern.

There is slightly better news for the house sparrow. In Northumberland, it held onto first position with an average of five recorded per garden – an increase of 1.4 per cent in comparison to last year.

Richard Bashford, Big Garden Birdwatch organiser, said: “2014 was always going to be an interesting Big Garden Birdwatch as the winter has been so mild and we wondered if it would have a significant impact on garden birds.

“They were out and about in the wider countryside finding natural food instead of taking up our hospitality. The good news is that this may mean we have more birds in our gardens in the coming breeding season because more survived the mild winter. It is a great time to give nature a home by putting up a nesting box and supplementary feeding.”

More than 3,000 people in Northumberland took part in the Birdwatch survey in January, which is the largest of its kind in the world.

The top 10: 1 House sparrow; 2 chaffinch; 3 blackbird; 4 blue tit; 5 starling; 6 goldfinch; 7woodpigeon;8 great tit; 9 collare dove; 10 coal tit.