For over four decades, the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch has united people across the UK in taking time to watch and count their garden birds over the last weekend in January. We are calling on Orkney residents to celebrate your love of nature and join the thousands of people throughout Scotland and the UK in taking part this weekend!

Each year, close to half a million people take part in the survey, spending just one hour watching and recording the birds seen from their garden, balcony or window and sending in their results.  Throughout the last year in particular, we’ve seen how important the natural world is to our mental health and wellbeing. There has been a surge in interest in the nature on our doorsteps and watching our garden birds and local wildlife can bring joy and comfort in these unsettling times.  A survey by Scottish Environment LINK in July 2020 found 76% of respondents said they had become more aware of nature during lockdown.

This year’s event takes place on 29, 30 and 31 January 2021. To take part, first sign up to the survey on the RSPB website and download your free Big Garden Birdwatch guide. This includes charts and information to help you identify garden birds, along with top tips for your birdwatch and advice on attracting wildlife to your garden. You then pick an hour to spend over the weekend and watch the birds you can see from your home or immediate surroundings. Only count the birds that land and record the highest number of each species you see at any one time – not the total you see over the hour.


Since 1979, the Big Garden Birdwatch has highlighted who is thriving and who is struggling in the garden bird world. In this time, over 144 million birds have been counted by participants, giving the RSPB an astonishing amount of insight into how our most recognisable species are faring.


The most commonly seen Orkney species naturally differ from elsewhere in Scotland and the rest of the UK.  In 2020, the starling was our most common garden bird, stealing the top spot from the house sparrow, which remained top in both the overall Scotland and overall UK results. Orkney’s results also saw blackbirds taking a higher spot than elsewhere, and collared doves, feral pigeons, rooks and dunnocks taking places in the top 10 held by chaffinches and tit species in Scotland and the UK overall.

While house sparrows and starlings may be the UK’s most commonly sighted birds, a closer look at Big Garden Birdwatch data shows that numbers have in fact dropped dramatically since the Birdwatch began in 1979. House sparrows are down 53% while starlings have declined by a dramatic 80%. It is a pattern echoed by two more garden favourites, with blackbirds and robins down 46% and 32% respectively in this time. Having this data allows the RSPB to investigate the reasons for these declines and understand what is needed to protect these species.


Keith Morton, RSPB Senior Species Policy Officer, said: “The data you submit from your Big Garden Birdwatch helps us create a picture of how bird populations in Scotland are faring, which then informs the work we do to protect those species most at risk. Last year almost 18 thousand households in Scotland counted their garden birds for an hour, which makes for a massive amount of data. Could you give an hour of your time this year to get involved? Every submission is important, even if you don’t see a single bird, and enjoying nature is just as important as counting it.”

Running in parallel to the main event, the RSPB Big Schools’ Birdwatch takes place from 6 January – 21 February 2021. This year it celebrates its 20th anniversary of connecting children with nature in their school grounds. Since its launch, over a million school children and teachers have taken part. To find out how schools can still take part this year please visit for more information. 


You can register to take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2021 by visiting   

For further information on taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch please contact .  For information on Big Schools Birdwatch please contact  You can also follow the RSPB Orkney Facebook page for information and to let the team know what you see over the survey weekend!