Environment: Watch the woodpigeon as it climbs garden league table

More than 13,000 people in the North east are set to take part in a national birdwatch event

The woodpigeon was fourth in the top 10 garden birds seen in Tyne and Wear
The woodpigeon was fourth in the top 10 garden birds seen in Tyne and Wear

It will be the little and large show this weekend as thousands of observers in the North East take part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.

Last year 13,000 people in the region gave up an hour to record what birds they saw in their gardens or nearby park. The mass of data feeds into research into bird population trends.

This weekend, one of the points of interest will be if the woodpigeon continues a population advance which has seen the bird colonise urban areas.

Last year, the chunky woodpigeon was fourth in the top 10 garden birds seen in Tyne and Wear, knocking the tiny blue tit into fifth, and was in sixth position in Northumberland and Durham.

Since the first year of the Garden Birdwatch in 1979, the woodpigeon population has grown by 923%. The major concern centres around the decline of the house sparrow and starling.

Last year the sparrow was first in North East gardens, with the starling second in County Durham and Tyne and Wear and third in Northumberland.

But in 1979 sparrows averaged 10 per garden and starlings 15.

Last year the regional average was 4.5 sparrows per garden and 3.67 starlings.

The North East results last year showed a drop of 13% for sparrows and 20% for starlings.

Tim Melling, RSPB senior conservation officer for the North of England, believes that one factor in the decline is changing farming practices, especially autumn sowing of crops, with less winter stubble and the use of insecticides.

“In 1979, if you went for a drive you would come back with a windscreen caked in insects, and people used sticky fly papers to catch all the flies in homes. Not now,” said Tim.

But the boom in garden feeding has seen birds like long-tailed tits and goldfinch attracted into plots.

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