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Help save nature with a cuppa

Last modified: 26 January 2016

Count the wildlife that’s counting on you

More than half a million people across the UK are expected to spend an hour watching and counting their garden birds for RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch in January 2016. In 2015, more than 43,000 people across Scotland took part in the survey including 1,007 in Aberdeen City and 3,368 in Aberdeenshire (a slight increase from 2014).

This year hopes are high that even more people will take part.

The world’s largest garden wildlife survey, now in its 37th year, takes place on 30 and 31 January 2016. Since it began it has provided valuable information about the changes in numbers of birds using our gardens in winter.

Overall more than 632,000 birds were counted in Scotland in the 2015 survey. In Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire house sparrows took the top spot [note 2] mirroring the Scottish result where house sparrows stayed at the top of the rankings [note 4]. Their long term decline appears to have continued to slow, although numbers have dropped by 57% since the first Big Garden Birdwatch in 1979 [note 3]. They remain the most commonly spotted bird in our gardens in the UK.

In Aberdeen blackbirds pipped starlings to second place once again, but in Aberdeenshire starlings replaced chaffinches as the second most commonly spotted bird. Although starlings moved up one place to second across Scotland in 2015 their numbers continue to decline: they have dropped by an alarming 80 per cent respectively since 1979.

Keith Morton, Species Policy Officer at RSPB Scotland said: “It’s great that so many people in Scotland including thousands of people in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire take part in Big Garden Birdwatch. Both house sparrows and starlings, the top two birds in Scotland in our 2015 results, are red list species, and so the results help paint a picture of how they and other birds are faring over winter.”

As well as counting their feathered friends, RSPB Scotland is also asking participants to log some of the other wildlife they see in their gardens and green spaces such as hedgehogs, foxes, stoats and squirrels, to help build an overall picture of how important they are for giving nature a home. [note 5]

Keith added: “Gardens are important to our wildlife all the year round. You can use your Birdwatch hour to consider how you can make your outside space more nature-friendly. Watch how the birds approach the feeders you have put out for them using trees, shrubs and bushes as different birds seek shelter in different places. You could start to plan ahead working out where to best place a nest box for the birds who visit your garden or thinking about adding some nectar-rich plants that are great for insects to your outside space. Small changes such as these can make a big difference.” The RSPB’s Giving Nature a Home campaign aims to tackle the housing crisis facing the UK’s threatened wildlife. RSPB Scotland is asking people to provide a place for wildlife in their own gardens and outside spaces – whether it’s putting up a nest box for birds, creating a pond to support a number of different species or building a home for a hedgehog [note 6]. The Big Garden Birdwatch is just one of the simple steps people can take to help nature. Participants don’t need to be experts and can even take part in their slippers with a cup of tea.

For more information on Big Garden Birdwatch 2016 visit

The parallel event, Big Schools’ Birdwatch takes place during the first half of spring term next year. Further information can be found at

How you can help

Find out which birds were the movers and shakers in this year's Big Garden Birdwatch charts.