Big Garden Birdwatch 2022 names the most commonly sighted birds in Beds

House sparrows held on the top spot in Bedfordshire, in this year’s RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.

By Hannah Richardson
Monday, 11th April 2022, 2:30 pm

Big Garden Birdwatch is the world’s largest wildlife survey and gives RSPB scientists insights into how our garden birds are faring.

Now in its 43rd year, RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch is a chance for people of all ages to count the number of birds that visit their garden, helping the RSPB get a snapshot of how they are doing.

This year nearly 700 thousand people across the UK took part – including more than 8,000 people in Bedfordshire.

House sparrow on garden feeder

The house sparrow was the most commonly sighted bird in Beds, followed closely by starlings and blue tits.

In the UK, the jay moved up nine places to number 23, an increase of 73 per cent compared to 2021 numbers.

Each autumn, colourful jays can often be seen flying back and forth, finding and hiding acorns to help see them through the winter. These are then hidden in the cracks and crevices of trees, but also in leaf litter on the ground. An individual jay can store around 8,000 acorns each year and many remain buried to grow into oak trees.

RSPB chief executive Beccy Speight said: "We don’t know the reasons for the sudden increase in jay sightings this year. It may be down to food availability as we have reports that last year was poor for acorns, but whatever the reason a sighting of this stunning bird is enough to raise one’s spirits any day of the year let alone on a gloomy January weekend.

Blue tit on a branch

And she added: “It’s been brilliant to see so many people taking part again this year, taking time out to watch and reconnect with birds and then generously submit their sightings to help RSPB scientists gain some insights into how our garden birds are faring.”

Big Garden Birdwatch results also found a small increase in greenfinch compared to 2021, giving scientists a glimmer of hope that this might be the first signs of a population recovery.

In recent years, the greenfinch has suffered a population crash (62 per cent since 1993) caused by a severe outbreak of the disease trichomonosis, and the species was added to the UK Red List last year. This infection is spread through contaminated food and drinking water, or by birds feeding one another with regurgitated food during the breeding season.

Over its four decades, Big Garden Birdwatch has highlighted the winners and losers in the garden bird world.

It was first to alert the RSPB to the decline in song thrush numbers, which are still down 81 per cent compared to the first Big Garden Birdwatch in 1979.

This species was a firm fixture in the top 10 in 1979 but by 2009, its numbers were less than half those recorded in 1979. It came in at 20 in the rankings this year, seen in just eight per cent of gardens.

Next the RSPB wants people to join in national Dawn Chorus Day on Sunday, May 1.

The RSPB will be hosting Dawn Chorus events on its nature reserves, and people are invited to listen to the dawn chorus and share their experience on social media using #DawnChorusDay.