How kids can help the birds in their gardens this January

Details about January's RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and the ten most commonly-seen British garden birds

The chaffinch: Britain's most common British garden bird? Photo by Alan Cleaver
The chaffinch: Britain's most common British garden bird? Photo by Alan Cleaver
  • The chaffinch: Britain's most common British garden bird? Photo by Alan Cleaver
    The chaffinch: Britain's most common British garden bird? Photo by Alan Cleaver
    The chaffinch: Britain's most common British garden bird? Photo by Alan Cleaver
    The chaffinch: Britain's most common British garden bird? Photo by Alan Cleaver

Perhaps it is the enormous variety of British birds which fascinates adults and children so much.

Maybe it is the rich variety of colours which catch our eyes so much as we look out into frosty winter gardens – the green of greenfinches, the red breasts of robins, the blue hue of blue tits.

Or perhaps it is the thought that we can help make our feathered friends life a little easier in winter by leaving out food in bird feeders – a great reward for the joy their appearances and songs bring us.

Kids who love art and craft and wildlife will love making bird-friendly objects such as mini ceramic bird houses. Painting these houses will provide colourful nesting boxes for birds and fill your garden with happy chirps and tweets.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is keen to remind the bird-loving public that our actions can help birds all year round – it’s why the society is asking for our help on the weekend of 28th and 29th January 2012.

All kids and grown-ups need to have, to participate in The Big Garden Birdwatch Weekend, is a pen and a scrap of paper.

The RSPB want us to make a record of “the highest number of each bird species seen on the ground (not flying over) at any one time”.

The information will be used to monitor the number of birds which remain on our wintry shores rather than disappearing to sunnier climes. The Big Garden Birdwatch has been taking place for over 30 years – a time during which we’ve lost more than half our house sparrows and three-quarters of our starlings. Using the results of the survey helps the RSPB gives these bird species extra help so that they will survive to sing their songs in gardens.

In 2011 the largest group of people who took part in the bird-watching survey was a group of 84 adults and two children; surely a school could try and beat this record in 2012!

The results of the Big Garden Birdwatch of 2011 revealed the identity of the ten most commonly-seen British garden birds. Can you guess what they were – the top ten is listed below.

10. Collared dove

These birds’ monotonous cooing will be as familiar to you as their appearance – pale grey feathers, a black collar, deep red eyes and reddish feet. Did you know that these birds only arrived here in the 1950s after they flew here from the Middle East via mainland Europe?

9. Robin

These red-breasted birds might seem very friendly when they are hopping around on snowy window ledges but they are in fact extremely territorial; puffing out their breasts to deter intruders. After a hard day of protecting their patch they like nothing better than singing next to street lights at night.

8. Goldfinch

These birds clearly like southern climates – many of them disappear to Spain in the winter. But there are still enough of them – especially in southern England – to make them Britain’s eighth most-commonly seen bird.

7. Great Tit

In summer this green and yellow tit sticks to its own kind and sings its own song – a two-syllable melody. But in winter it harmonises with the smaller blue tit to scour gardens for insects, seeds and nuts to feed on.

6. Woodpigeon

The UK’s largest and commonest pigeon could be said to have two sides to its nature – it is shy in the countryside and friendly in towns and cities.

5. Chaffinch

This red-breasted bird is the most colourful of Britain’s finches and, as it often sports a grey ‘mullet’, it can be the most distinctive too. Don’t be too disappointed if they don’t perch on your bird table – chaffinches prefer to hop about under the bird table accepting the crumbs left by other birds.

4. Blue Tit

Unlike the chaffinch, the blue tit has no problem dining on bird tables. They are also happy to breed in nest boxes – their blue, yellow, white and green plumage adds colour to any garden.

3. Blackbird

Did you know that female Blackbirds are not black but brown? This bird was famously celebrated in The Beatles song Blackbird which contains the lyric “Blackbird singing in the dead of the night”. I’ve been unable to find out whether blackbirds really do sing in the dead of the night – it’s nice to think that they do.

2. Starling

Garden lovers can’t really miss the starlings’ arrival in autumn. Walking and running confidently on the ground it’s like they’ve never been away, their noisy song has staked a claim to the ownership of many gardens. But they aren’t the most common British garden bird…

1. House Sparrow

You could say that this is the ultimate modern bird – it thrives on recycling man’s rubbish and wastefulness. Over the years, the Big Garden Birdwatch has shown that the House Sparrow’s numbers are declining – a sign perhaps that humans are producing less rubbish and being less wasteful.

But it is a shame to think that there are less house sparrows flying around our gardens. Hopefully, these resourceful birds – with the help of the public and Big Garden Birdwatch – will be around for a lot longer.