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How long do the common birds in our gardens live?

Sent in by John Aden, London

The actual age an individual bird can reach is very variable for most species. Many young birds will not survive their first year. However, once they reach breeding age then their survival chances are better.

The habitat quality, hunting pressure, persecution and climate can all have an impact. Over a species' range all of these factors could vary so the life expectancy would be different. For example, the average age of magpies in the countryside is 2.3 years but in urban areas 3.8 years.

Most common garden birds have an average age of between 2 and 5 years. However, the maximum lifespan recorded for many of these birds is much higher. For example, the average age of a blue tit is 2.7 years but the oldest recorded was over 21 years old. The oldest recorded bird in the UK was a Manx shearwater which was 52.

Information on the survival rates of birds is obtained from ringing. Rings are fitted to birds mainly to track migration but can help determine the age of the bird. Many individuals of each species would need to be ringed to work out an accurate average age. Therefore, we can be most confident about the average age of common birds that are most likely to be ringed and then recovered.

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