Blue tit is top feathered friend in our gardens

THERE has been a crash in the number of starlings visiting gardens in Milngavie and Bearsden, according to a new study.

A total of 1,371 people across East Dunbartonshire took part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch at the end of January, where they spent an hour recording which bird species visited their back yards.

While the blue tit was the commonest visitor, with an average of 2.6 spotted at any one time, starlings have disappeared from many gardens - with the species registering a decline of almost 53 per cent in the area over the past 10 years.

Starling numbers have declined nationally by 17 per cent, but the drop in East Dunbartionshire is the most drastic.

Keith Morton, species policy officer at RSPB Scotland, said: “It’s great to see so many people stepping up for nature by taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch The results are an important piece of the jigsaw when monitoring garden birds numbers and a vital tool in flagging up any underlying problems, such as the trend we are seeing with starling numbers.

“The fact this bird ranked third in this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch shows that it is still a fairly common garden regular. However, looking back on the results over the years it is clear that where once you may have seen as many as 15 of these highly sociable birds at any one time, nowadays, in some areas you may see as few as two or three.

“The causes are not well understood and, because many starlings migrate from breeding grounds in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe to winter here, then declines may reflect environmental changes elsewhere in Europe.

“However UK-wide surveys are revealing declines in our own breeding starling populations too, so it is clear that further work is needed to understand these losses.”

A record-breaking 53,000 Scots took part in the project this year and for the first time since 2005, the house sparrow claimed the top spot nationally, with an average of 5.5 birds spotted in 70 per cent of gardens.

The chaffinch fell to second place, with the starling, blue tit and blackbird completing the top five.

In East Dunbartonshire gardens, the commonest birds were, in descending order, blue tit, woodpigeon, house sparrow, chaffinch, starling, blackbird, magpie, great tit, robin and feral pigeon.

For more information about RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch