Missing: Garden Finches

01 Jan 2015 | No. 2015-04

This winter has seen incredibly low numbers of Siskins, a small finch that traditionally turns to our gardens for food during the winter, according to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Garden BirdWatch. This is probably due to a bumper crop of Sitka Spruce seeds, but with the recent drop in temperatures, will Siskins return to our gardens before the winter is out?

The presence of all birds in gardens is dependent on food availability in the wider countryside and the weather. This particularly applies to Siskins, which love nothing more than the seeds of the Sitka Spruce tree. In years where there are lots of seeds available, Siskins have less need to come into gardens in search of food, except when the weather is wet and the Sitka Spruce cones close up.

BTO Garden BirdWatch data show that Siskin numbers usually start to increase in gardens by the end of the year, as the amount of natural food diminishes and the weather worsens. However initial results suggest that at the end of 2014, Garden BirdWatch saw the lowest proportion of gardens reporting Siskins since the survey began in 1995. According to the Forestry Commission, 2014 looks like it was another good year for Sitka Spruce which, combined with a relatively mild and dry winter so far, could be why Siskins are missing from gardens this winter.

Clare Simm, from the BTO Garden BirdWatch team, commented: "It’s always exciting to see a Siskin in the garden, but this year fewer Garden BirdWatchers have had that treat than ever before in the survey. We wouldn’t know this without the help of the public, so if you spend a few minutes each week watching what the birds get up to in your garden, why not get involved? You can contact us for a free magazine and information pack on how to take part."

Will Siskins come flooding back into our garden with the cold weather, or will the Sitka Spruce crop keep them away? Help us find out!

To get your free magazine and information pack, or to find out more about the BTO Garden BirdWatch please get in touch by emailing gbw [at] bto.org, telephoning 01842 750050, or write to GBW, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU. More information can also be found at www.bto.org/gbw

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 14,500 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 www.bto.org/gbw.
  2. 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 organisations.www.bto.org

Contact Details

Clare Simm
(BTO Garden BirdWatch Development Officer)

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

Paul Stancliffe
(BTO Media Manager)

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

Images are available for use alongside this News Release.
Please contact images [at] bto.org quoting reference 2015-04

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

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