Blackbirds knocked off top of the tree in Tyneside school pupils' survey

Starlings and crows are more popular garden visitors according to a RSBP survey which North East school pupils were involved in

Tim Goode/PA Wire A male blackbird in a garden
A male blackbird in a garden

The starling has flown to the top of the tree of feathered garden visitors in the region.

Charity the RSPB asked tens of thousands of school pupils nationwide to survey birds in their gardens and playgrounds.

Across the UK, the blackbird was the most commonly-spotted bird. But in Tyne and Wear, more starlings were seen by birdwatchers.

Of the schools that took part in the national RSPB Big Schools’ Birdwatch survey, 85% saw blackbirds, with an average of five birds seen per school, slightly down on 2013 figures.

In this region, the blackbird dropped from second to third position, with an average of four birds recorded per school.

Starlings claimed first place with an average of nine birds seen per school, moving up from fifth position, while carrion crows moved up one place to eighth. Carrion crows were spotted at more than half of all participating schools in Tyne and Wear.

More than 70,000 pupils and teachers across the UK counted the birds in their school grounds for one hour of one day between January 20 and February 14 to take part in the event. Their sightings contribute to the results of RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch – the biggest wildlife survey in the world – which will be revealed tomorrow.

A fledgling Starling is fed by it's parent at a bird-table
A fledgling Starling is fed by it's parent at a bird-table
 

Overall, average numbers of birds spotted appear to be down this year, but experts at the charity believe this is likely to be because of the mild weather.

Availability of natural food sources in the wider countryside meant birds didn’t need to visit school grounds to feed. Emma Reed, the RSPB’s education officer for Northern England, said: “It’s encouraging that so many children and teachers continue to take part in the Big Schools’ Birdwatch, especially when this winter’s mild weather meant birds didn’t turn up in the numbers they usually do.

“Seeing nature first-hand is the single best way to enthuse young people about it, and by watching birds from their classroom window they can learn so much about the amazing diversity of wildlife living on their doorstep.

“Finding out which birds they share their playground with always gets children excited, and through that excitement comes learning. Most importantly, it encourages them to help us give nature a home.”

The bird with the most significant change in national rankings compared with last year is the black-headed gull, which dropped from third to sixth place. However, in the North East, the gull moved from seventh to second position, with an average of eight recorded per school.

The Big Garden Birdwatch results will be revealed tomorrow. For more information visit rspb.org.uk/birdwatch. To find out how schools can join in next year visit rspb.org.uk/schoolswatch or for tips on how to give nature a home where you live, visit rspb.org.uk/homes

BIRD NUMBERS IN THE NORTH EAST

SpeciesAverage number per gardenRank
Starling9.861
Black headed gull8.452
Blackbird4.533
Feral pigeon3.884

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