Taking part

The Blackbirds in Gardens survey is open to everyone. Find out how to take part. 

What skills do I need to take part?

If you have access to a garden, have an interest in garden birds and can recognise a Blackbird by sight, including reliably separating adult male, adult female and juveniles, then the Blackbirds in Gardens survey could be for you.

We will provide you with a simple identification guide to Blackbirds of both ages and sexes along with some confusion species once you have signed up.

Male, female and juvenile blackbirds.

How much time does it take? 

Taking part in the Blackbirds in Gardens survey has a target of one 15-minute survey per week throughout the survey period (May–October). However, you can miss weeks and you can undertake multiple surveys within a week if you wish.

The survey week runs from Sunday to Saturday, and the survey itself is designed to fit around everyday life activities – it can be done at any time of day, and at different times each week.

How to sign up to the survey

You can sign up for Blackbirds in Gardens online.

Prepare for your first survey

Before you do a survey, you need to register your garden details in the project web app. For full instructions for setting up your survey site, see our data entry guide.

  • If you participate in BTO Garden BirdWatch and have a relatively current set of garden details, there is an option to import your garden details within the project web app without needing to input them again.

You can then start collecting and submitting your survey data whenever you are ready.

Collecting and submitting data

Survey instructions

Each weekly 15-minute survey count is split into three five-minute segments and can start at any time of day. You should record the overall start time when you begin. 

We have provided an example blank recording sheet you can use to help you do your surveys offline.

During each five-minute segment, you should record: 

  • The peak counts of adult males, adult females, juveniles and any unknowns seen at any one time across the segment within your garden recording area.
  • If you observed Blackbirds doing any of the following behaviours:
    • Foraging for natural food
    • Using supplementary food (e.g. bird food or scraps you have put out)
    • Feeding young/carrying food
    • Using a man-made birdbath
    • Using a pond or puddle
    • Territorial chasing (note we are not specifically recording singing)
    • Carrying nesting material
  • An overall peak count of the most individuals seen at any one time (across all ages/sexes). This is the maximum count of Blackbirds you saw at any one time and may be different to the sum of the age/sex totals.

Are zero counts useful?

Yes! Even if you don’t see a Blackbird during your survey this is still important information for understanding how Blackbirds are faring and how they use gardens. Please submit zero counts if you have them.

Submitting your survey data

You can log in to the Blackbirds in Gardens survey web app to start entering survey data.

For full instructions for submitting data, you can read our data entry guide.

Project results

During the winters following the two survey seasons, we will report back to all survey participants with the overall survey results for that year. We will also report on any subsequent publications using data from this survey. 


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