Trends in the use of private gardens by wild birds in Great Britain 1995-2002

Cannon, A.R., Chamberlain, D.E., Toms, M.P., Hatchwell, B.J. & Gaston, K.J. (2005)

Journal of Applied Ecology 42: 659-671
Goldfinches have increased their use of gardens

Wild birds are commonly observed in private residential gardens in Great Britain. However, little is known about how their use of this significant and increasingly important habitat is changing and how such changes relate to their population status. Trends in the use of private residential gardens by wild birds in Great Britain were investigated using weekly bird records from 18 300 gardens over 8 years. We showed that the use of this habitat is seasonal and cyclic, with the timing and regularity of its periodicity variable between species.

We evaluated the significance of the underlying trends in the cyclic reporting rates. Eighteen species showed clear trends, the three with the most negative year term parameter estimates being ‘red-listed’ as high conservation concern. Examining correlations with national scale survey data suggested that garden reporting rates are related to general population trends in a number of species, including several of conservation importance. Other species exhibit important differences between
national and garden trends.

Our analysis demonstrates ecologically meaningful trends and provides novel insights into seasonal cycles of habitat exploitation, using relatively simple and cost-effectively collected data. This will lead to greater understanding of the relationships between gardens and general bird populations and of the times of year at which garden habitats are most important for birds. We have demonstrated the practicality and productivity of ‘citizen science’ in this context, and provided new information on the status of some birds of conservation concern.

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