How to take part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch!

Sit and stare out of a window for a whole hour. It sounds lazy, but in fact that’s all you need to do to take part in the world’s largest wildlife survey!

Join the RSPB on the weekend of 30 and 31 January and spend one hour watching your garden. You simply need to count all the different birds you see and submit your findings.

What is the Birdwatch?

Blackbird eating berries. Blackbirds are common garden birds

Look out for blackbirds, seen in 90% of gardens

The Big Garden Birdwatch helps the RSPB develop a clear picture of the UK’s bird wildlife and how it is changing.

It started as a one-off project for children in 1979. They looked out for birds, filled in a form and posted their findings to the RSPB. But the idea became huge when it was featured on Blue Peter, and 34,000 children sent in their tallies.

The RSPB decided to continue the project every year. More and more people started taking part, and eventually in 2001 it was opened up to adults too.

Last year over half a million people took part, making it the largest wildlife survey in the world! Together the participants recorded sightings of over 8.5 million birds.

Why should I take part?

Chaffinch birds can be spotted and counted during the Birdwatch

Bird species like this chaffinch are recorded

The Birdwatch was designed to build a snapshot of the UK’s garden bird populations. Thirty years later, it’s a vital project to steer conservation and research efforts. It also raises public awareness of the plight of many garden birds, and encourages more people to make their gardens bird-friendly.

The Birdwatch has also identified that gardens are hugely important habitats for birds, providing food and shelter that is often crucial to their survival.

You don’t need to be an expert to take part. You don’t even need binoculars. Order a free pack from the RSPB website here. Alternatively, register your details for easy submissions on the day, and get a £5 discount in the RSPB shop.

Schools can also take part any day during January. Teachers can find more information here.

The top 10 birds spotted in 2015

House sparrows are the number one Birdwatch bird

House sparrows took the top spot!

  1. House sparrow
  2. Starling
  3. Blackbird
  4. Blue tit
  5. Wood pigeon
  6. Chaffinch
  7. Robin
  8. Great tit
  9. Goldfinch
  10. Collared dove

Think you would recognise all these birds? Test your knowledge with our top ten bird quiz!

Changes over time

The vast amount of data collected has also given the RSPB chance to track the changes in bird species populations. Some fluctuations can reflect how mild or harsh the weather has been.

But decades of counting has revealed long-term trends and changes too. Some birds are doing well while other species are declining dangerously.

Going up

Wren bird sightings are rising. Join the Birdwatch here

Wren sightings were up last year

  • The blackbird was the most widely spotted bird, with over 90% of participants recording one.
  • Robins were seen by 85% of people and moved up three spaces in the top ten list.
  • Wrens saw a dramatic increase in 2015 – double the sightings than in the previous year and the highest number since 2006.

Going down

Starling birds are in decline - take part in the RSPB's Birdwatch

Starlings have suffered a steep decline

  • Song thrush sightings have fallen to an all-time low and they remain on the red list.
  • Once ubiquitous starlings are also in decline. Though still common, sightings have dropped by 80% since the first Birdwatch.
  • Greenfinches are also suffering because of a disease called trichomonosis. If you spot greenfinches in your garden, help protect them from infection by regularly cleaning bird baths, tables and feeders.

How do I take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch?

Goldfinches are a more common sight in our gardens

Look out for garden stalwarts like goldfinches

Spend one hour counting the birds you see in the garden on the weekend of 30-31 January. It is better to do this in the morning when birds are most active.

You can keep a bird identification book to hand, or look on the RSPB website for the most common birds.

If you’ll easily recognise most birds, why not see if you can spot any differences between male and female birds, or juvenile and adult?

Count the birds

Wood pigeons are common garden birds. Take part in the Birdwatch this January

Count how many wood pigeons you see

For each species, keep a tally of how many you see at once. This means you don’t count the same bird twice. So if you see a blackbird appear three times, you put down one blackbird. If you see two blackbirds together, you put two.

The birds must land in your garden, not fly over it.

If you see nothing or very little, still submit your results. The survey wants to know what is missing just as much as what is there.

Submit your findings to

And encourage friends, family and neighbours to take part! The more submissions the better.

Where to look for birds

Starlings on bird feeder during Birdwatch

Top up bird feeders to attract more birds

Keep an eye on fences and high walls which make great lookout posts. Many birds will sit a the top of trees.

Put out some bird food and top-up feeders and bird baths. Birds still need to drink and bathe in cold weather. You can also clear space on the patio and lay some food for ground-feeding birds.

Enjoy your Big Garden Birdwatch!