July 2, 2022

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Great days for jays! Joy for birdwatchers as numbers are boosted, survey shows

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Jays and greenfinches have flocked back to British gardens, according to the biggest birdwatching survey held in the UK.

Numbers of jays have increased by a staggering 73 per cent this year compared with 2021, the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch found.

And greenfinch numbers have also risen by almost 8 per cent this year – despite being placed on the ‘red list’ of threatened species in December.

The Big Garden Birdwatch, which takes place every year over one weekend, encourages the public to record the number of bird species visiting their garden for one hour

Jays, which survive mostly on acorns during winter, are thought to have been seen more at garden feeders due to shorter supplies of the oak nut last year, following a boom year in 2020. 

Last year saw fewer acorn supplies, meaning jays had to rely on sources such as garden feeders instead of natural food.

This may have been due to a ‘mast year’ in 2020, when trees such as oaks produce a bumper crop of seeds so birds and animals can’t eat them all.

This is usually followed by a quieter year as trees recover their energy and produce less.

Greenfinches have also seen a slight improvement after suffering a population crash in recent decades.

Their numbers have fallen by around 62 per cent since 1993 due to a severe outbreak of the disease trichomonosis.

The infection spreads through contaminated food and water – including on bird feeders – and from birds feeding each other regurgitated food during the breeding season.

To slow the spread, the RSPB has advised gardeners to clean bird feeders regularly and temporarily stop putting out food if sick birds are seen.

The Big Garden Birdwatch, which takes place every year over one weekend, encourages the public to record the number of bird species visiting their garden for one hour.

This year, 700,000 people took part and spotted 11 million birds.

The house sparrow was the most commonly seen garden bird with more than 1.7 million recorded sightings over the weekend in January.

Redwings and fieldfares also did less well, with numbers dropping by around 50 per cent compared with 2021

Redwings and fieldfares also did less well, with numbers dropping by around 50 per cent compared with 2021

Blue tits and starlings remained in the number two and three positions respectively. However, long-tailed tits and coal tits saw numbers fall by around a quarter compared with last year.

Redwings and fieldfares also did less well, with numbers dropping by around 50 per cent compared with 2021.

The RSPB’s chief executive, Beccy Speight said: ‘It’s been brilliant to see so many people taking part again this year, taking time out to watch and reconnect with birds and then generously submit their sightings.’

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