Like all British Trust for Ornithology projects and surveys, Garden BirdWatch has a series of carefully thought-out aims and objectives. These are geared to the provision of scientific information, gathered in a robust and unbiased manner, and of value to researchers, policy makers and conservation practitioners.
Gardens are an important habitat for many reasons, not just because they support populations of some bird species for all or part of the year. In many cases, these populations may use other habitats at other seasons and it is important to establish when gardens are used and why.
We also want to establish the role that supplementary food plays in bird population dynamics and how birds vary their use of this resource in relation to food sources elsewhere. There are also some negative aspects to birds and their use of gardens. Gardens can be dangerous places for birds and many may die through predation by domestic cats, collision with windows or ingestion of tarnished food. Again, we need to understand the processes that are going on and their effect on bird populations.
Garden BirdWatch has one other important aim, not directly related to the scientific work that we carry out. This is to introduce people to wildlife recording and monitoring, allowing them to record observations that can be used to determine conservation policy - this is 'Citizen Science'. For many people, their only interaction with wildlife is with those birds and animals that visit and use their gardens. Involving them in a monitoring programme like Garden BirdWatch is a way of increasing their interest and making them stakeholders in the research into and conservation of our wildlife.