RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch hits record high across the UK

house sparrow
The House Sparrow is still the most spotted garden bid (Image credit: Ray Kennedy / RSPB)

More than a million Brits participated in a record-breaking RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this year. This is double the number of birdwatchers who took part in 2020.

The number of birdwatchers in Scotland over the annual RSPB weekend in January was also the highest ever at 78,000.

The charity reported that a total of 17 million birds were spotted across the country.

filling in a bid birdwatch form

A participant ion the Big Garden Birdwatch fills in a survey form (Image credit: Rahul Thanki / RSPB)

What is the Big Garden Birdwatch

The Big Garden Birdwatch is the world’s largest wildlife survey and gives RSPB scientists insights into how our garden birds are faring

Now in its 42nd year, tit's believed that participation grew in 2021 due to the Covid pandemic.

A YouGov survey revealed the pandemic is making the public more aware of nature. Across the UK,  63% of people said watching the birds and hearing their song added to their enjoyment of life since the onset of the pandemic, including 55% of people in Scotland.

In addition, it was shown that 41% of people in Scotland say the pandemic has made them more aware of the nature around them.

song thrush

The song thrush is in decline in Britain (Image credit: Chris Gomersall / RSPB)

Big Garden Birdwatch 2021 results

The event held over the last weekend in January revealed the house sparrow held on to its number one spot. Meanwhile, 10 out of the top 20 bird species showed declines in average numbers in Scotland compared to last year.

Over four decades, the Big Garden Birdwatch has highlighted which species are thriving and which are struggling in the garden bird world. It was first to alert the RSPB to the decline in song thrush numbers, which are still down 78% across the UK compared to the first Big Garden Birdwatch in 1979. 

This species was a firm fixture in the top 10 in 1979. By 2009, its numbers were less than half those recorded in 1979, it came in at 20th in the rankings this year, seen in just 13% of Scottish gardens.

The house sparrow remains at the top of the Big Garden Birdwatch rankings as the most commonly seen garden bird in Scotland with more than 250,000 recorded sightings throughout the weekend. 

Starlings stayed in second place, but numbers were down 14% compared to 2020. Goldfinches saw the greatest decline in Scotland’s top 10, falling four places from sixth position last year, with reported numbers 47% fewer than 2020.

Beccy Speight, RSPB CEO said: “One way you can help revive our world is to bring nature to you. Your garden, balcony, and even windowsill are potential havens for wildlife, and in April we’re launching a digital platform, Nature on Your Doorstep, to help show you how.”

For a full round-up of all the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch results and to see which birds were visiting gardens where you live, visit

Fiona Russell
Outdoor writer

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favorite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing (both downhill and backcountry). Aside from her own adventures, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy getting outside and exploring, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.