Gardens offer winter lifeline to
IRISH gardens provided
a vital lifeline for birds last winter as some of
the worst spells of cold weather gripped the
country, a new survey shows.
The results of the Garden Bird Survey 2017/2018
reveal that cold and hungry birds flocked in greater
numbers to our birdfeeders and domestic outdoor
spaces seeking nourishment and shelter from weather
events such as the ‘Beast from the East’.
Severe snowfalls in February and March this year
also resulted in some “truly bizarre” sights in
gardens. Some wading birds like snipe, lapwing and
golden plover left their usual seaside habitats in
sub-zero temperatures for sanctuary and food inland.
However, the annual statistics show there was no
change at the top of the bird table with festive
favourite, the robin, recorded in every one of the
The feisty little
redbreast was joined by the blackbird and blue tit
in the top three, a position they’ve collectively
retained for over 20 years.
The stalwart trio were followed by the chaffinch in
fourth place, magpie in fifth and the great tit in
Birdwatch Ireland Garden Bird Survey co-ordinator
Brian Burke said 806 families and individuals took
part in the 2017/2018 survey.
He said the wildlife charity was heartened by the
number of people who sought advice on helping birds
through the severe weather.
February and March were dominated by red alert cold
weather warnings with Storm Emma closely following
on the heels of the ‘Beast from the East’.
“Amongst all the
meteorological mayhem it was heart-warming to see
how many people were eagerly seeking advice on how
to get their garden birds through the worst of the
weather,” said ornithologist Mr Burke.
“Ninety-one species (of bird) were recorded in
gardens last winter, the joint highest for any year
of the survey.
“Species such as meadow pipit, reed-bunting and
yellowhammer all made their way into a much higher
number of gardens than usual on account of the snow,
as did several species of gulls,” he said.
He said that some small-bodied species that rely
heavily on insects for food such as the stonechat
and wren were among the hardest hit by the snow.
However, this may have been offset by a good
breeding season that followed in spring 2018.
The 30th Garden Bird Survey 2018/2019 begins on
December 3 and Birdwatch Ireland would appreciate as
many participants as possible for its special
thirtieth anniversary. See
www.birdwatchireland.ie for details.
Top 20 garden birds 2017/2018
Robin, recorded in 100% of gardens.
Blue tit, 98.8%
Great tit, 92.4%
Coal tit, 87.1%
House sparrow, 85.2%
Song thrush, 81%
Collared dove, 63.4%
Hooded crow, 58.3%
Pied wagtail, 55%