Garden BirdWatchers deliver a staggering 20 years of citizen science

01 Mar 2015 | No. 2015-09

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Garden BirdWatch survey is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, thanks to the dedication of its participants. Their hard work has allowed scientists to examine how, when and why birds and other wildlife use gardens and the resources that they contain, and there have been some ground-breaking findings. None of it could have been achieved without the support of ‘citizen scientists’, so your help is needed for us to continue for another two decades.

Gardens are often the place where people first encounter, and learn to love birds and other wildlife. In addition, they are an important habitat in their own right, supporting a wide range of species. Back in 1995, when BTO Garden BirdWatch started, however, gardens were less appreciated and funding was hard to come by. It is thanks to the generosity of BTO Garden BirdWatch supporters, who fund the survey, that it is still going strong 20 years later.

With an average of 29 bird species reported per garden, our participants have contributed an astonishing 7.3 million hours of their time over the last 20 years, submitting just under 100 million observations. This wealth of information has also allowed BTO researchers to produce an average of one scientific publication a year, including several investigating the decline of the UK’s House Sparrow population, first discovered through BTO’s garden-based data. It was also thanks to the contributions of our volunteers that scientists from BTO and the Institute of Zoology were able to reveal the impact of finch trichomonosis on the Greenfinch population, which has declined by 30% since 2005.

As well as its scientific outputs, the project also provides benefits for its community of Garden BirdWatch volunteers. As Clare Simm, from the Garden BirdWatch team commented, "The one thing that many of our volunteers comment on is how their knowledge has developed through watching their garden wildlife for Garden BirdWatch, as well as the interest that they gain from seeing the changes in the bird community over the years, all whilst collecting simple but incredibly important data on a weekly basis. Given how much has changed during the last 20 years, it will be fascinating to see what happens over the course of the next two decades."

If you watch birds and other wildlife in your garden then why not join this community of citizen scientists and develop your interest, while contributing to this fantastic national project?

To find out more about the BTO Garden BirdWatch, including receiving an enquiry pack and a free copy of our 20th anniversary magazine, please get in touch by emailing gbw [at], telephoning 01842 750050, or write to GBW, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU. More information can also be found at

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 13,000 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. Five things that have happened since 1995:
    i.  481 different species (including birds, mammals, butterflies, bumblebees, reptiles and amphibians) have been recorded with an average of 34.9 species reported per garden.
    ii.  30,271 gardens have submitted at least one week of data.
    iii.  One garden in Monmouthshire reported data from 1,039 out of a possible 1,042 weeks.
    iv.  Participants see, on average, three more bird species in their garden in 2014 than they did in 1995.
    v.   The top five most reported birds still include Blackbird, Blue Tit and Robin, but House Sparrow has dropped from the top five, and Woodpigeon has climbed there from outside of the top 10.
  3. Quotes and stories from long-term Garden BirdWatchers have been compiled online.
  4. The BTO is the UK's leading bird research charity. A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to the BTO's surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Bangor (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects. The BTO's work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation

Contact Details

Clare Simm
(BTO Garden BirdWatch Development Officer)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Email: clare.simm [at]

Paul Stancliffe
(BTO Media Manager)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Mobile: 07585 440910 (anytime)
Email: press [at]

Images are available for use alongside this News Release.
Please contact images [at] quoting reference 2015-09

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

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