Bird watch:

It’s time for the RSPB Big Gar­den Birdwatch

EDP Norfolk - - INSIDE -

It’s the 40th year of the Big Gar­den Birdwatch

Ev­ery year, for the past 40 years, over 10,000 peo­ple in Nor­folk (and over half a mil­lion across the rest of the UK) have been count­ing the na­tion’s gar­den wildlife and send­ing the num­bers to the RSPB, mak­ing the Big Gar­den Birdwatch the largest wildlife sur­vey in the world. You can sign up now for a free pack to help you get in­volved, with fun ac­tiv­i­ties and spot­ting sheets in­cluded. For your free pack, which in­cludes a bird iden­ti­fi­ca­tion chart, plus RSPB shop voucher and ad­vice to help you at­tract wildlife to your gar­den, text BIRD to 70030 or visit rspb.org.uk/birdwatch

Will the house spar­row keep the crown as most com­mon gar­den bird, or will the black­bird leap ahead? Here is last year’s top ten… 1 House spar­row: Noisy lit­tle birds, weigh­ing in at be­tween 24 – 40g. There are an es­ti­mated 5,300,000 breed­ing pairs in the UK, but mon­i­tor­ing sug­gests a se­vere de­cline in the UK pop­u­la­tion, which is es­ti­mated to have dropped by 71% be­tween 1977 and 2008 with sub­stan­tial de­clines in both ru­ral and ur­ban pop­u­la­tions.

2

Black­bird: Males live up to their name but, con­fus­ingly, fe­males are brown, of­ten with spots and streaks on their breasts. The bright or­ange– yel­low beak and eye–ring make adult male black­birds strik­ing. Both sexes weigh be­tween 80 – 100g. 10–15 mil­lion birds win­ter here in the UK, but num­bers have dropped by al­most 27% over nearly 30 years. 3 Star­ling: At a dis­tance star­lings look black, but when you see them closer they are very glossy with a sheen of pur­ples and greens. Their flight is fast and di­rect and they walk and run con­fi­dently on the ground. Each star­ling weighs about 75g. Star­lings spend a lot of the year in flocks. In the UK they have around 804,000 breed­ing ter­ri­to­ries, but de­spite this, star­ling num­bers have de­creased by 79% since 1979.

4

Wood­pi­geon: The UK’s largest and most com­mon pi­geon weigh­ing in at 450g. It is largely grey with a white neck patch and white wing patches, clearly vis­i­ble in flight. Although shy in the coun­try­side it can be tame and ap­proach­able in towns and cities, and nearly 5,400,000 pairs breed here in the UK.

5 Blue tit: A colour­ful mix of blue, yel­low, white and green makes the blue tit one of our most at­trac­tive and most recog­nis­able gar­den vis­i­tors. In win­ter, fam­ily flocks join up with other tits as they search for food; they are a rel­a­tively small tit weigh­ing about 11g.

6

Goldfinch: A highly coloured finch with a bright red face and yel­low wing patch. So­cia­ble, of­ten breed­ing in loose colonies, they have a de­light­ful liq­uid twit­ter­ing song and call. They are very small, weigh­ing around 16g. In­creas­ingly they are vis­it­ing bird ta­bles and feed­ers, and now oc­cupy 313,000 UK breed­ing ter­ri­to­ries.

7

Col­lared dove: Pale, pinky– brown grey coloured birds, with a dis­tinc­tive black neck col­lar (as the name sug­gests). They have deep red eyes and red­dish feet. Their mo­not­o­nous coo­ing is a fa­mil­iar sound to many and it’s easy to mis­take them for a wood­pi­geons, how­ever they are a lot smaller than a wood­pi­geon, weigh­ing be­tween 170 – 240g. There are 990,000 breed­ing pairs in the UK, and num­bers have in­creased by over 300% since 1979. 8 Long–tailed tit: As the name sug­gests, this tit’s tail is much longer than its body! Eas­ily recog­nis­able with its dis­tinc­tive colour­ing and un­du­lat­ing flight, the long–tailed tit is a must–see through­out win­ter. Gre­gar­i­ous and noisy res­i­dents, they are most usu­ally no­ticed in small, ex­citable flocks of about 20 birds flit­ting from gar­den to gar­den in search of food.

9

Great tit: The largest UK tit, weigh­ing around 16g

– is green and yel­low with a strik­ing glossy black head with white cheeks and a dis­tinc­tive two–syl­la­ble song. It is a wood­land bird which has read­ily adapted to man–made habi­tats to be­come a fa­mil­iar gar­den vis­i­tor, with 2,500,000 breed­ing ter­ri­to­ries across the UK.

10

Chaffinch: The chaffinch is a rel­a­tively small bird weigh­ing 21g; it is very colour­ful with pat­terned plumage that helps it to blend in when feed­ing on the ground, but it be­comes most ob­vi­ous when it flies, re­veal­ing a flash of white on the wings and white outer tail feath­ers.

The Big Gar­den Birdwatch is on Jan­uary 28-29. rspb.org.uk

ABOVE: Great tit Photo: Gra­hame MadgeRIGHT:A long tailed tit perched on branch of a pine tree Photo: John Bridges

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