Northern Ireland news

House sparrows overtake starlings as most spotted garden bird in Northern Ireland

House sparrows were the most-spotted birds in Northern Ireland gardens according to the RSPB’s latest Big Garden Birdwatch survey. Picture: Jodie Randall (rspb-images.com)
Marie Louise McConville

House sparrows have overtaken starlings as the number one bird spotted in gardens in Northern Ireland, according to the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.

Now in its 39th year, the annual Birdwatch is a chance for people of all ages to count the number of birds that visit their garden, helping the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) build up a picture of how they are doing.

Following the survey in January, which saw 420,000 people take part around the UK - 15,000 of whom were in Northern Ireland - it was found that there had been a surge in sightings of goldfinches, long-tailed tits and coal tits, and other smaller garden birds.

House sparrows remain at the top of the UK-wide Big Garden Birdwatch rankings with more than one million sightings throughout the weekend.

In addition, it was found that house sparrows have knocked starlings off their perch for the top spot in gardens across Northern Ireland.

The survey also revealed a dip in the number of reported sightings of blackbirds (-18 per cent), robins (-12 per cent) and wrens (-11 per cent) compared to last year’s figures.

The top five birds spotted in Northern Ireland were house sparrows, starlings, chaffinches, goldfinches and blue tits.

Joanne Sherwood, RSPB NI Director, said: "I’d like to thank everybody for taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch – and to all the schools across Northern Ireland for embracing the Big Schools’ Birdwatch too.

"While it’s a fun way to spend an hour, this is true citizen science with real benefit as it helps us to understand what’s happening to our favourite garden birds".

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