House sparrow is most common garden bird


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Sub-heading: Top ten garden birds on Arran revealed

Bird Notes by Jim Cassels

The last weekend in January 2020 was the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch. This was the 41st year of this event. Individuals, families or groups not only took part in this survey of garden birds but some shared their results with me.

This year there were 22 sets of Arran results sent to me, one less than last year. Some participants felt there were fewer birds than last year but this is not reflected in the overall figures. In fact five more species were recorded this year than last.

The following were recorded this year but not recorded in 2019: buzzard, mistle thrush, redwing, fieldfare and lesser redpoll. Comparing species that were seen in both years, the total number of birds seen in 2019 was 831 compared with 741 last year. Comparing the most numerous birds; house sparrow, blackbird, collared dove, robin and dunnock all showed an increase in number in 2019, while chaffinch, blue tit, coal tit and great tit did indeed show a decrease in 2020. This year in the survey, 35 species were recorded in Arran gardens.

This year robin was reported in every garden except one in the survey, while house sparrow had the largest total of birds, namely 167. Chaffinch, which in the previous four years was not only the ‘top garden’ bird in terms of the percentage of gardens in which it was seen, but also in these years had the largest total of birds, was still very common in 2020, being recorded in all except two gardens with the second largest total of 136.

From the collation from all the gardens, the top 10 birds this year in terms of the number of gardens in which they were seen are: robin, chaffinch, blue tit, house sparrow, blackbird, great tit, coal tit, dunnock, goldfinch and collared dove. The first eight of these have been in the top 10 in slightly different orders for the last six years. Goldfinch and collared dove have replaced crow and woodpigeon from the top 10 of 2019.

By far the largest total of birds seen was house sparrow with 167. Chaffinch was the next most counted species with 136, goldfinch was third with 73, followed by starling on 60. For a collation of all the Arran data from the Big Garden Birdwatch for the last four years visit this webpage

While this information is interesting, too much should not be read into these small samples. It is a fun survey to do but it only covers one weekend in the year. If you enjoyed doing it, there is a garden bird watch that you can join that encourages people to record their garden bird sightings every week of the year, the British Trust for Ornithology Garden BirdWatch (GBW). To find out more about the BTO Garden BirdWatch visit the website

Finally in Sweden there is a similar survey to the RSPB survey. The most frequent bird table visitor from the Swedish survey is great tit, with other spaces at the head of the list taken by tree sparrow, greenfinch, yellowhammer, blue tit and blackbird. (Winter Birds by Lars Jonsson published by Bloomsbury in 2017).

Enjoy your birding.

Please send any bird notes with ‘what, when, where’ to me at Kilpatrick Kennels, Kilpatrick, Blackwaterfoot, KA27 8EY, or e mail me at I look forward to hearing from you. For more information on birding on Arran purchase the Arran Bird Atlas 2007-2012 as well as the Arran Bird Report 2018 and visit this website

Robin seen in all except one garden. Photo Sue Archer NO_B08watch01

House sparrow the largest number of birds seen. Photo Dennis Morrison NO_B08watch02

Chaffinch very common seen in all but two gardens and the second highest number of birds seen. Photo Dennis Dennis Morrison NO_B08watch03

Collared dove first ever Scottish record was 1957 and now in the top ten of garden birds. Photo Tony Church NO_B08watch04

Goldfinch replaced woodpigeon from 2019 in top ten. Photo Dennis Morrison NO_B08watch05

Lesser redpoll not recorded in 2019 but was reported from several gardens in 2020. Photo Angela Cassels NO_B08watch06