Belfast Telegraph

Ireland's favourite garden bird on danger list as winter bites

By Linda Stewart

Our beloved robins are falling on hard times - and they are not the only ones

According to the RSPB, the popular garden bird has been reclassified from green (least conservation concern) to amber (medium concern), following data from the most recent Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland list.

And the species isn't alone - of the top 10 species counted in last January's Big Garden Birdwatch survey, nine had declined from the previous year.

Meanwhile, greenfinch, mistle thrush, stonechat and goldcrest in Ireland have also been reclassified from green to amber for the same reason as the robin - a decline of more than 25% in breeding populations over 15 years.

The conservation charity is calling on wildlife fans to help find out how our garden birds are faring in this year's Big Garden Birdwatch - the world's biggest wildlife survey.

For the past 36 years the nature charity has been asking people to count the birds which visit their garden to help create a 'snapshot' picture of bird numbers in the UK.

Of the 127,700 birds counted in Northern Ireland during last year's Birdwatch, house sparrows were the most commonly seen, in 66% of gardens. House sparrows were the only species out of the top 10 to increase in numbers last year, climbing by 8%. Chaffinches, at number three in the list, declined by 20% in a year, great tits were down by 23% and coal tits by 35%.

The RSPB said the smaller the bird the more likely it was to be affected by prolonged winter cold, with robins, wrens and blue tits particularly vulnerable.

"A bird will lose a substantial proportion of its body weight during one cold night, and unless able to replenish its reserves, a prolonged cold spell could be catastrophic," spokesperson Amy Colvin said.

To get involved in the Birdwatch, just spend one hour counting the birds you see in your garden or local park at any time during January 24 or 25.

Children can also get involved by counting the birds which visit their school grounds up until February 13.

How to get involved in the big birdwatch

If you'd like to get involved this year it couldn't be easier - you can even go to your local park if you don't have a garden. Just spend one hour counting the birds you see at any time on January 24-25.

When the Birdwatch kicks off you'll be able to use the online bird counting tool to identify and record the birds as you see them directly on your laptop, tablet or smartphone. You can also take part with pen and paper and then enter your results on your computer or by filling in a paper survey form and posting it to the charity.

Families are also asked to log some of the other Northern Ireland wildlife they see in their gardens - from squirrels to hedgehogs - to help build an overall picture of how important our green spaces are for giving all types of animals a home.

You can register to take part in Big Garden Birdwatch 2015 now at

Children can also get involved by counting the birds which visit their school grounds in any hour between January 5 and February 13.

Teachers can register for the Big Schools' Birdwatch now at

Belfast Telegraph


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