Starling the most common feathered friend sighted in East Dunbartonshire gardens

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Starlings are the most common garden birds to be found across East Dunbartonshire, according to a new study.

The RSPB’s annual garden wildlife survey involved 36,000 people across Scotland turning their eyes to the garden to watch and count more than 626,335 birds.

The starling was seen in 58 per cent of local gardens.

The RSPB said a rise in sightings of smaller garden birds may be due to the milder weather.

Keith Morton, Species Policy Officer at RSPB Scotland, said: “2016 was another great year for Big Garden Birdwatch in Scotland. We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who spent an hour of their weekend in January taking part. The data collected by you helps us build a better picture of how our garden birds are faring year to year.

“Different birds are affected in different ways by the weather and this winter has seen milder temperatures and some very wet periods in parts of Scotland, although several areas did have a lot of snow fall over Big Garden Birdwatch weekend.

“The increase in smaller garden birds recorded, such as long-tailed tits, suggests that the lack of sustained cold weather helps these species survive in far greater numbers over the winter months.

“The food these birds rely on, such as insects, would have been easier to find, helping to boost the numbers of them spotted in Big Garden Birdwatch hour.”

During periods of colder temperatures birds struggle to find food in the wider countryside so become more reliant on garden feeders. Long-tailed tits, and other smaller birds, have adapted to feeding on seeds and peanuts at bird tables or from hanging feeders.

Keith Morton added: “These increases in smaller birds show how important well stocked feeders are for them. Although they might have found gathering food easier in the wild this winter, birds will still have needed the food people put out for them. Once a bird has found a reliable source of food it will keep coming back to it.”

Despite this boost in numbers many other garden favourites are still struggling. In Scotland sightings of well known species such as starlings and song thrushes have experienced another drop during the Big Garden Birdwatch this year. This decline continues a trend that has seen the number of both species visiting UK gardens decline by 81% and 89% retrospectively since the first Birdwatch in 1979.

Keith Morton added: “Big Garden Birdwatch helps us understand the long term trends for our garden birds and many of our favourites are struggling. You can help them by making a home for nature in your garden or outdoor space. Watch how the birds use these areas – this will help guide you to where is best to place food and water for them, and where might be the ideal place for a nest box. Planting nectar rich plants can help not just birds but insects and mammals too.”

Meanwhile, close to 7,500 school children in Scotland took part in the parallel survey, Big Schools’ Birdwatch, spending an hour outdoors counting birds. Blackbirds remained the most common playground visitor with 86% of participating schools spotting one of these birds. The top three was rounded off by starlings in second place, and carrion crows in third.

Big Garden Birdwatch and Big Schools’ Birdwatch are a part of the RSPB’s Giving Nature a Home campaign, aimed at tackling the housing crisis facing the UK’s threatened wildlife. The conservation charity is asking people to provide a place for wildlife in their outdoor space – whether it’s putting up a nest box for birds, creating a pond for frogs or building a home for hedgehogs.