Poor weather hits garden birds

No.:  2016-14
March 2016

With the British Trust for Ornithology's (BTO) Garden BirdWatch results now published for 2015, we can see the full impact last year’s wet spring had on our garden birds.Some of the birds that had a particularly poor year were those that are most familiar to us, such as Blackbird and Blue Tit. Will this year see common garden bird numbers recover from 2015's poor breeding season? Your help is needed to find out.

Blackbird by www.grayimages.co.uk

The annual results of the BTO Garden BirdWatch show an interesting story for some of our more common garden birds, with Blue Tit, Great Tit and Blackbird numbers all well below average during the second half of 2015.  Blackbird numbers were 13% lower than usual between June and December, whilst both Blue Tit and Great Tit were at their lowest numbers on record for June, down 19% and 14% respectively. This is the time of year when the numbers of these species seen in gardens normally rises sharply, as juveniles leave the nest and join their parents at garden feeding stations.

It is thought that these results were due to a poor breeding season, which was caused by cold, wet weather in the spring, resulting in fewer juvenile birds. “Data collected by BTO Nest Record Scheme volunteers show that the number of chicks fledged per Blackbird nest in 2015 was the lowest since records began in the mid-1960s,” explained Dave Leech, Head of the Nest Record Scheme. “Small clutches meant that numbers of young reared by both Blue and Great Tits were also significantly lower than average.”

Clare Simm, from the Garden BirdWatch team, commented, "While numbers of some of our common garden birds were low, the good news is that we had a mild winter and overwinter survival should have been high, boosting numbers at the start of 2016. The reason we can see how garden birds fare throughout the year is because thousands of people collect data for the BTO Garden BirdWatch each week."

The poor spring weather of 2015 started with widespread rain over the Easter weekend. This Easter weekend is looking better, so hopefully garden bird numbers will increase this year, but we need your help to find out.

You can explore the BTO Garden BirdWatch annual results here

To find out more about taking part in BTO Garden BirdWatch, including a free enquiry pack and magazine, please get in touch by emailing gbw [at] bto.org, telephoning 01842 750050, write to GBW, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU or visit 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 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 www.bto.org/gbw.
  2. You can find the 2015 Nest Record Scheme preliminary results here. People can contribute to nest records by taking part in Nest Box Challenge (NBC) an online survey of garden and nest boxes/sites with the aim of learning more about productivity trends of bird populations in urban areas. The BTO provides instructions on how to monitor and report nests on its website
  3. 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 2016-14

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

Infographic by Nigel Hawtin