Our new Visitor Experience Officer, Lydia, now reveals the top 5 in our Big Garden Birdwatch usual suspects list...
We're getting excited about this weekend's Big Garden Birdwatch - we can't wait to see which species will be top of the charts at our bird feeding station. Could it be the chirpy house sparrow, or will it be the brilliant blue tit?
Last week's blog introduced you to the birds at 10 down to 6 on our Big Garden Birdwatch top 10; here's our top 5:
At number 5 we have the woodpigeon - the UK’s largest pigeon and easy to recognise with their white neck patch and pink breast. They are the ultimate habitat generalist and can be found throughout the UK in woodlands, farmlands and our gardens feeding on a variety of foods such as grains, seeds, fruits and crops. The woodpigeon can hold an extraordinary amount of food in its crop with over 15 acorns and 200 beans at a time!
Pigeons are not the most impressive nest architects and their nest usually consist of a few twigs roughly bundled together. Baby pigeons also known as squabs will feed on liquid from their parents often referred to as pigeon milk.
Blackbird by Chris Prince.
Blackbirds are a common sight for many and came in at number 4 in last year’s Big Garden Birdwatch. The males live up to their name and have a distinctive orange bill, but females are often brown with light streaks on their breast. Blackbirds will often come into your garden searching for worms and in the winter can be seen gorging on berries.
Fun Fact: You will often see an increase of blackbirds in winter due to the fact many migrate to Britain from continental Europe. So, keep your eyes out for increased numbers of these in your birdwatch!
Starling by Chris Prince
Coming in at number 3 last year is the iridescent and noisy starling. These aerial acrobats are most famous for their murmurations in which they can number in their thousands! They can be famously seen at Brighton pier where they roost throughout the autumn and winter.
Don’t be fooled by the incredible size of murmurations as starlings have declined by 70% in the last 40 years due to habitat loss and lack of insects that they depend on.
Starlings will often adorn their nests with fragrant marigolds, elderberry and willow bark which helps them fumigate their nests and discourage pests. A recent study has shown that starlings with well-fumigated nests survive longer and weigh more than those without the fragrant herbs.
2) Blue tit
Blue tit by Graham Osborne
The blue tit is one of the most common birds in our gardens; easy to distinguish with its blue cap, white cheek patches with a black eye stripe and yellow chest. They are often seen teetering round on branches and bushes looking for insects and spiders and are known to break seals on milk bottles to get access to the cream of the milk.
You will generally see larger numbers of blue tits in the winter as they congregate in small flocks. Blue tits mostly nest in crevices in trees and are a common nest box visitor but have also been seen nesting in letterboxes, streetlamps and other unexpected places.
If you are visiting RSPB Pulborough Brooks they are most often seen taking advantage of the bird feeders and fluttering around in Fattengates Courtyard.
And in the number one spot...
1) House Sparrow
House sparrow by Chris Prince
The humble house sparrow has been Big Garden Birdwatch champion for the last 18 years. These noisy and cheerful little birds can often be found chittering loudly in large groups foraging on seeds.
House sparrows have a fairly fluffy appearance due to loose feathers. Males’ plumage is quite striking with a distinct grey cap and a darker back with black streaks with a black bib on their chest whereas females are an almost sandy brown colour.
Males are generally not territorial and will only defend their nest site and the surrounding area. To attract a breeding female, they will use this aggressive behaviour and studies show the bigger and bolder their black bib the more successful they are.
Although they are a common sight in some gardens, their population has declined by an estimated 71% between 1977 and 2008. Declines of house sparrows have been linked to the lack of invertebrates available.
Find more information on how to get involved here
Will the mighty house sparrow be toppled this year? We don’t know but if everyone counts their feathered friends this #BigGardenBirdWatch, only time will tell if they’ll remain on the top perch!
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