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Revealed: Northern Ireland most spotted bird

By Adrian Rutherford

They are a spectacular sight in the skies, wheeling and reeling in unison as they prepare for nightfall.

Now a survey has revealed starlings are Northern Ireland's most commonly spotted bird.

They retained their top billing in the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch, closely followed by house sparrows. Chaffinches, blue tits and blackbirds complete the top five.

More than 17,000 people here counted almost 130,000 birds during the annual survey.

Bird watchers spent one hour recording what they saw in their garden or local green space.

Starlings topped the list, just as they did last year.

Elsewhere in the top 20, robins held firm at number eight after being spotted in 94% of gardens here.

The greenfinch swooped in at number 19, but has fallen from the number six position in the last decade.

Experts said this could be due to the impact of a disease called trichomoniasis, which worst affects members of the finch family. It stops birds being able to feed properly and is fatal.

The RSPB's Northern Ireland director, Joanne Sherwood, said: "The sight of a robin or blackbird perched on the garden fence is often one of the first experiences we have with nature. To have so many people connecting with this huge citizen science initiative is amazing, and the information gathered will really help create a snapshot of how our garden birds are doing."

Across the UK there was a surge in the number of recorded sightings of waxwings.

These beautiful birds flock to UK gardens in winter once every few years when the berry crop fails in their native Scandinavia.

Waxwings are rarely reported in Northern Ireland, although this year they were seen in six gardens.

There was also a increase in the number of visits from several other migratory birds.

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