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Blackbird is most-spotted playground bird

Last modified: 24 March 2014

Boy taking part in Big Schools' Birdwatch

Image: David McHugh

A UK-wide survey of birds in schools has revealed that the blackbird is the most common playground visitor for the sixth year in a row. 

85 per cent of schools that took part in the survey in the Big Schools Birdwatch saw blackbirds, with an average of five birds seen per school, slightly down on 2013 figures.

Starlings held onto the number two spot, but carrion crows moved up two places from fifth in 2013 to third this year. Carrion crows were spotted at more than half of all schools; the average counted during the hour-long survey was four.

Thousands took part

More than 70,000 pupils and teachers counted the birds in their school grounds for one hour of one day between 20 January and 14 February. Their sightings contribute to the results of RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch – the biggest wildlife survey in the world – which will be revealed on Thursday 27 March.

The bird with the most significant change in rankings compared with last year is the black-headed gull, which dropped from third to sixth place. Just 35 per cent of schools recorded black-headed gulls in 2014, contrasting with 75 per cent the previous year. 

Overall, average numbers of birds spotted appear to be down this year; however experts at the charity believe this is more likely to be because of the mild weather. Availability of natural food sources in the wider countryside meant birds didn’t need to visit school grounds to feed.

James Harding-Morris, the RSPB’s Big Schools’ Birdwatch Co-ordinator, said:

“It’s encouraging that so many children and teachers continue to take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch, especially when this winter’s mild weather meant birds didn’t turn up in the numbers they usually do. Seeing nature first-hand is the single best way to enthuse young people about it, and by watching birds from their classroom window they can learn so much about the amazing diversity of wildlife living on their doorstep.

“Finding out which birds they share their playground with always gets children excited, and through that excitement comes learning. Most importantly, it encourages them to help us give nature a home.”

The Big Garden Birdwatch results will be revealed on Thursday 27 March 2014. For more information visit

To find out how schools can join in next year visit

For tips on how to give nature a home where you live, visit

How you can help

Find out what birds are visiting your school grounds by getting involved in our annual Big Schools' Birdwatch.

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