Birds seek refuge in Britain’s snowy gardens

01 Jan 2010 | No. 2010-01-02

The latest results from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) show Britain’s birds are flooding into gardens, as food in the countryside becomes harder to find under the blanket of snow and ice.

Use of gardens by Redwing has
increased by 283%

The results from the BTO Garden BirdWatch survey show huge increases in the use of gardens by birds as they come in search of an alternative source of food. For some species this increase has been dramatic. Redwing and Fieldfare, both types of thrush that breed in Scandinavia, have shown an increase in the use of gardens by 283% and 267% respectively compared with a normal winter.

It doesn’t stop here though. For forty species the percentage of gardens in which they occurred increased during the current snowy weather, with particularly large increases in thrushes and buntings. Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer, both small birds belonging to the bunting family that would ordinarily find refuge in Britain’s farmland, have increased by 134% and 80% respectively!

Dr Tim Harrison, BTO Garden BirdWatch, commented, “It is amazing to see the dramatic effect the weather has had on our wild birds. The increase has been most marked in the ground feeding species that are using the food put out by householders. Such provision could make the difference between life and death.”

He added, “It’s also thanks to our Garden BirdWatchers, who record the birds in their gardens every week throughout the year, that we can see how our birds are doing right across the UK during these extreme weather conditions.”

To see just how these birds are coping see Snow Watch on BBC 2 Wednesday at 8.00pm

For more information on the BTO Garden BirdWatch survey and how to get involved, telephone 01842 750050 and ask for the GBW team, or write to GBW, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU, or visit,

Notes for Editors

  1. The BTO Garden BirdWatch is the only nationwide survey of garden birds to run weekly throughout the year, providing important information on how birds use gardens, and how this use changes over time. Currently, some 15,000 people take part in the project. The project is funded by participants’ contributions and is the largest year-round survey of garden birds in the world. For more information see
  2. Selected Results showing increase in use of gardens for Fieldfare and Redwing  
  3. The BTO is the UK’s leading bird research organisation. Over thirty thousand birdwatchers contribute to the BTO’s surveys. They collect information that forms the basis of conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Norfolk and Stirling, who analyse and publicise the results of project work. The BTO’s investigations are funded by government, industry and conservation organisations.

Contact information

Paul Stancliffe (BTO Press Officer) 
Office: 01842 750050 (9am to 5.30pm)
Mobile: 07845 900559 (anytime)
Email: press [at]

Dr Tim Harrison (BTO Garden Birdwatch Development Officer) 
Office: 01842 750050 (9am to 5.30pm)
Email: gbw [at]

Mike Toms (Head of BTO Garden Ecology) 
Office: 01842 750050 (9am to 5.30pm)
Mobile: 07527 443626
Email: press [at]

Images are available for use alongside this News Release
Please contact images [at] quoting reference 2010-01-02.

The BTO has an ISDN line available for radio interviews
Please contact us to book an interview
Office: 01842 750050

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