Their tuneful warbling is as much a part of our gardens as lawns and borders – but now sightings of common garden birds are falling.
A worrying survey suggests well-loved species are under growing threat due to habitat loss and a changing climate.
BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine’s annual garden wildlife review reveals sightings have dipped noticeably in just three years.
This is despite so many people being at home during the pandemic and actually recording seeing more wildlife overall.
Sightings of blackbirds, blue tits, chaffinches and dunnocks fell between 4 per cent and 6 per cent from 2018, and sightings of starlings have plummeted by 8 per cent since 2013, and house sparrows by 7 per cent.
BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Editor Lucy Hall explained: “Garden wildlife has been a beacon for so many garden owners during lockdown, as shown by the increase in sightings reported in our new Wildlife Review.
“But while watching wildlife has been a great distraction from the pandemic, this decline in common UK bird species such as house sparrows and starling is a huge concern with long-term implications.”
She added: “Through the rise of diseases and the loss of natural habitats to big changes in our climate, many common and popular garden birds are suffering.”
But she also pointed to the positive steps many are taking to help protect these common birds. She said: “Our review shows that almost three-quarters of gardeners – more than ever – have taken steps to protect birds in the last year.
“The good news is we can all do something, however small, to help make a big difference – whether it’s wildlife-friendly planting and filling bird feeders, or installing bug boxes and log piles to nurture the vital cycle of life.”
Birdwatching has boomed in the pandemic as we have found ourselves with more time to engage with the outdoor world.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds reports visitors to its website grew 70 per cent year-on-year during the first lockdown.
And everyone is invited to take part in the hobby next weekend, with the Big Garden Birdwatch.
The aim is to choose one hour across the weekend and count all the birds that land in your garden, recording the highest number of each species you see at any one time.
More than 2,500 responded to the Gardeners’ World Magazine’s annual garden wildlife review conducted in November 2020, which asked respondents which birds and wildlife they had seen in their gardens over the previous 12 months.
Although sightings of some favourites fell, those of other common birds rose.
Feral pigeons are up 8 per cent to 59 per cent and common gulls up 2 per cent to 25 per cent since 2018.
And in a further sign of hope, overall garden wildlife sightings rose by 11 per cent.
How the numbers stack up
Starling - Down 4 per cent
Sightings dropped to 61 per cent in 2020 from 65 per cent in 2018
House sparrow - Down 4 per cent
Sightings dropped to 75 per cent in 2020 from 79 per cent in 2018
Blackbird - Down 5 per cent
Sightings dropped to 85 per cent in 2020 from 90 per cent in 2018
Chaffinch - Down 6 per cent
Sightings dropped to 41 per cent in 2020 from 47 per cent in 2018
Dunnock - Down 4 per cent
Sightings dropped to 33 per cent in 2020 from 37 per cent in 2018
Feral pigeon - Up 8 per cent
Sightings increased to 59 per cent in 2020 from 51 per cent in 2018