Ice to see you! Garden birds return

01 Nov 2010 | No. 2010-11-51

As frozen weather grips the country once again, many birds are swooping back into our gardens. Participants in the year-round British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Garden BirdWatch are quantifying all of the early movements. 

The percentage of gardens occupied by
Nuthatches has increased

Could it happen again? Last winter was the coldest in 30 years and saw thousands of birds pile into our gardens. As the first cold snap of this winter cracks its icy whip across the country, the early signs are that birds are returning to our towns and cities in droves.

The percentage of gardens occupied by several species has increased markedly of late, with the tit family leading the way. These small and highly mobile species form roving flocks at this time of year, which tear along tree-lined streets and through gardens with verve. Many more householders have seen Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal Tits and Marsh Tits recently, the BTO’s Garden BirdWatch reveals. The percentage of gardens occupied by Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Sparrowhawks and Nuthatches has also increased.

Gardens confer two main benefits during freezing winter weather: warmth and food. Our towns and cities are often a few degrees warmer than the wider countryside and the public appear to be addicted to feeding garden birds. Around half of UK householders are now thought to provide food for birds in their garden, provisioning some 50–60 thousand tonnes of bird food per annum.

Dr Tim Harrison, BTO Garden BirdWatch, commented: “These results are hot off the press and show that when the weather turns cold many birds flock to our handouts. BTO data show that Blue and Great Tits had a bumper breeding season in 2010 and it is probable that other tit species followed suit. With so many hungry mouths to feed this winter, gardens could prove to be a lifeline.”

He added: “BTO Garden BirdWatch has managed to quantify these early movements through the simple observations of householders. In our urbanising world and with increasing pressure on the wider countryside, these records are invaluable.”

For a free guide on feeding garden birds or for more information about BTO Garden BirdWatch please phone 01842 750050, email gbw [at] or write to BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU.

Notes for Editors

  1. Latest BTO Garden BirdWatch results:

      Blue Tit:
      Great Tit:
      Coal Tit:
      Great Spotted Woodpecker:

  1. 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.
  2. 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

Contact information 

Tim Harrison (BTO Garden BirdWatch Development Officer)
Office: 01842 750050
Email: gbw [at]

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

Images are available for use alongside this News Release
Please contact images [at] quoting reference 2010-11-51

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

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