Birdwatch records a ‘waxwing winter’

Birdwatch records a ‘waxwing winter’

Waxwings were among the stars of this year’s Birdwatch.

Over 497,000 people took part in the 38th RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch over the last weekend in January, counting more than eight million birds.

The results show an explosion in sightings of waxwings. These attractive birds flock to UK gardens once every seven or eight winters – an event known as an ‘irruption’ – when the berry crop fails in their native Scandinavia. Waxwings were seen in around 11 times more gardens than in the previous two years, with sightings as far west as Wales and Northern Ireland. There was also a big jump in numbers of other migrant birds, such as redwing, fieldfare and brambling, as sub-zero temperatures on the continent forced them to seek out milder conditions.

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There was good news for robins, with sightings at their highest level since 1986, but numbers of blue tits, great tits and coal tits were down. Small-bodied birds like tits are very susceptible to weather conditions, and the prolonged wet weather during the 2016 breeding season will have led to fewer young birds surviving.

This year’s results also highlighted the positive effects that wildlife-friendly gardens are having. Sightings increased for 16 of the top 20 Birdwatch species between 2016 and 2017, showing how gardens are becoming an invaluable resource for British garden birds.

For more Birdwatch results go to

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Steve Ott
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