This year more than half a million people across the UK took part in the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch, counting more than nine million birds. 

In Devon, more than 15,500 people took part this year, with the House Sparrow taking the top spot as the most commonly seen bird, followed by Blue Tit and Blackbird. 

House Sparrows have held on to the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch UK top spot for an incredible 20 years running, while long term trends in the number of Long-Tailed Tits, Greenfinches and Chaffinches recorded in gardens over the past decade highlight the fragility of our natural world. 

Now in its 44th year, the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch is the world’s largest garden wildlife survey and gives the RSPB insights into how our garden birds are faring.

This year’s findings come as Sir David Attenborough says: “we must act now” to Save Our Wild Isles; joining forces with the National Trust, WWF and RSPB to sound an urgent SOS call for nature. 

"Since the RSPB’s first Big Garden Birdwatch, in 1977, more than 38 million birds have been lost from our skies, and this shocking figure is only set to rise without urgent action."

While nearly 1.5 million House Sparrows may have been spotted across the January weekend, these popular garden birds have sadly suffered severe declines. In fact, the number spotted in gardens across the UK has dropped by nearly 60 per cent since the survey first began, and nearly 22 million house sparrows have been lost from the UK since 1966. 

The RSPB’s Chief Executive, Beccy Speight said: “With so many people sending in their sightings over the weekend from across the UK, Big Garden Birdwatch really helps paint a picture of how our garden birds are faring. 

“While we celebrate the 20-year stint of the House Sparrow at number one, the numbers speak for themselves when it comes to the startling declines of some of our once common birds. We are in a nature and climate emergency. We’ve lost 38 million birds from our skies in the last 50 years.” 

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 80 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 44 years ago. The Song Thrush came in at number 20 in the rankings this year, seen in just nine per cent of gardens. 

This year’s results have also highlighted the vulnerabilities of garden birds, from weather changes to disease. The Long-Tailed Tit, a much-loved species, rose five positions in the rankings this year, with numbers 39 per cent higher than in 2022. However, Long-Tailed Tits are susceptible to harsh weather conditions, with the numbers recorded fluctuating since the Big Garden Birdwatch began, highlighting the fragility of some of our smaller garden birds. 

Meanwhile, Greenfinches and Chaffinches have been badly affected by a disease known as trichomonosis. As a result, the UK Chaffinch population has declined by 34 per cent over the last decade, while Greenfinches have declined by 65 per cent over the same time frame. 

Trichomonosis can be spread by contaminated food and drinking water and garden owners can help by ensuring that feeders, bird tables and bird baths are moved around to stop food waste building up, regularly cleaning with a mild disinfectant and only filling up feeders with enough food to last up to two days. If you see sick birds where you are feeding, temporarily stop feeding for at least two weeks and leave bird baths dry.