Chaffinch and greenfinch numbers plummet in Falkirk

Massice decline...in chaffinch numbers was recorded in Falkirk last year so readers are being asked to ensure they regularly clean bird feeders and baths. (Pic: rspb-images.com)
Massice decline...in chaffinch numbers was recorded in Falkirk last year so readers are being asked to ensure they regularly clean bird feeders and baths. (Pic: rspb-images.com)

Readers are being asked to regularly clean out their bird baths and feeders – to help stop the decline of chaffinch and greenfinch numbers in the Falkirk district.

In recent years, the RSPB has been worried about the decline of both species in its annual Big Garden Birdwatch poll. Last year’s results were no different.

Pole position...in both Falkirk and Scotland, the house sparrow was recorded most in the 2017 Big Garden BIrdwatch but which bird will soar into first place this year? (Pic: rspb-images.com)

Pole position...in both Falkirk and Scotland, the house sparrow was recorded most in the 2017 Big Garden BIrdwatch but which bird will soar into first place this year? (Pic: rspb-images.com)

In 2016, chaffinch was fifth in the poll in Falkirk, with an average of 2.3 birds being spotted in 47.6 per cent of gardens.

However, last year, it had dropped to eighth place with just 1.6 birds being spotted in 42.9 per cent of gardens – a 30 per cent reduction.

A worrying reduction in the greenfinch, which was number 18 on the poll, was also recorded in Falkirk, with a 26.3 per cent decline.

But it is discovering facts like these that helps the RSPB protect and safeguard birds.

Andy Robinson, an RSPB conservation officer, said: “In some semi-rural areas, you’ll be lucky to see a greenfinch and, sadly, chaffinch are now being affected too.

“Both birds have been really badly hit by the disease trichomoniasis.

“It causes lesions in the throat of the infected bird, which makes it progressively harder for the bird to swallow its food and, eventually, breathe.

“It’s spread via food and drinking water contaminated with saliva so the disease is quite common in bird feeders, stations and bird baths.

“We’d like to ask the public to ensure their bird feeders are kept nice and clean, to try to minimise the impact of this disease.

“We want people to keep on feeding birds but, please, ensure the feeders are regularly cleaned out.”

The news was revealed as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds appealed for readers in the Falkirk area to take part in this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch.

Billed as the world’s largest garden wildlife survey, the event will run from Saturday, January 27, to Monday, January 29.

Members of the public are being asked to spend an hour on any one of those days watching and recording the birds that they see in their own garden or local green space.

Almost 500,000 people took part last year, counting more than eight million birds and providing valuable information about wildlife using our gardens in winter.

In Falkirk in 2017, house sparrows came out on top with the 751 people who participated seeing an average of 6.7 in 81.8 per cent of local gardens.

Daniel Hayhow, RSPB’s conservation scientist, appealed for locals to take part in this year’s birdwatch once again.

He said: “It’s a great opportunity to get involved with helping our garden wildlife.

“By counting the birds that visit your outdoor space, you’ll be joining a team of half a million people across the UK who are making a difference for nature. “It only takes an hour – so grab a cuppa, sit back and see who makes a flying visit to your garden.

“Even if you see nothing during your Big Garden Birdwatch hour, that’s important information too – so please let us know.

“With so many people now taking part, coupled with nearly 40 years’ worth of data, it allows us to monitor trends and helps us understand how birds are doing.”

As well as counting birds, the RSPB is once again asking participants to log some of the other wildlife they might have seen in their gardens throughout the year. Up to 15 species can be recorded in total, including hedgehogs, red squirrels, foxes and toads.

To take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2018, all you need to do is watch the birds in your garden or local park for one hour at some point from January 27 to January 29.

Count the birds that land, not ones flying over, and record the highest number of each bird species you see at any one time – not the total you see in the hour.

Results can then be submitted at www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch.

Decline is clear in the rankings

In Falkirk, the top 10 birds in 2017 were: 1 house sparrow, 2 starling, 3 blue tit, 4 blackbird, 5 woodpigeon, 6 magpie, 7 robin, 8 chaffinch, 9 goldfinch, 10 great tit.

The chaffinch saw the largest reduction in numbers in the top ten, followed by the great tit, with a 5.2 per cent decline.

The bird rankings in Scotland overall last year remained unchanged from 2016, with house sparrows being the most common followed by starlings and chaffinches. But, yet again, the chaffinch recorded the highest reduction – a 29.5 per cent decline on 2016’s figures.

RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch survey is the largest citizen science survey in the UK.

The parallel event, Big Schools’ Birdwatch, has already begun and runs until February 23.

More than 6300 school children in Scotland spent an hour in nature counting birds in 2017’s survey, with blackbirds remaining the most common playground visitor followed by carrion crows and starlings.

For more information on both events, visit www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/at-home-and-abroad/scotland.