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London's gardens more important than ever

Last modified: 26 March 2015

House sparrows on feeder

Gardens are essential for the future of sparrows, starlings and other urban wildlife

Image: Ben Hall

The results of January’s Big Garden Birdwatch have highlighted the importance of London’s gardens to the future of house sparrows, starlings and blue tits.

All three have seen their populations topple. Sparrows and starlings were put on the red list of species under threat of extinction after losing two thirds of their numbers since the seventies.

They are in the top five most common garden birds, reflecting the importance of private gardens to their future and underlining the impact Londoners can have on the birds’ ability to recover.

“If every Londoner did one thing for sparrows or starlings, it would have a dramatic impact on the future survival of our urban birds,” said the RSPB’s Tim Webb.

“Putting up a nestbox, planting shrubs and hedges or sowing a wildflower patch are simple actions that will increase either food or shelter for London’s struggling birds,” added Tim.

The top ten most common garden species for Greater London are:

1.    Woodpigeons

2.    House sparrows

3.    Starlings

4.    Blue tits

5.    Feral pigeons

6.    Blackbirds

7.    Ring necked parakeets

8.    Magpies

9.    Robins

10.  Great tits


There are differences in each borough but the line-up remains much the same.

General conclusions are that blackbirds and blue tits are slightly down compared with the previous year; goldfinches have seen a marked rise over the past decade; and ring necked parakeets are visiting gardens more than ever before, probably attracted by feeders.

All of the information comes from families, individuals and schools across the Capital and provides the RSPB with annual snapshots of London’s birds. Comparing data with that from previous years helps the RSPB identify conservation needs.

The RSPB’s Tim Webb said “More people took part this year, giving us some great information, and we’re incredibly grateful. They’ve revealed which birds live in their gardens and that’s information we’d never be able to get by ourselves. Thank you.”

How you can help

Nature in the UK is in trouble and some of our more familiar garden species are amongst those suffering serious declines. We can all help by giving nature a home where we live.