The results of the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch survey have revealed some interesting information about our local feathered friends.
More than half a million people across the UK, including more than 10,500 in County Antrim, took part in the world’s biggest wildlife survey earlier this year.
Like last year, starlings swooped into top spot in Antrim after being seen in around 64 per cent of gardens and green spaces.
Smaller than blackbirds, with a short tail, pointed head and triangular wings, starlings look black at a distance. However when seen more closely, they are gorgeously glossy with sheens of purples and greens.
Noisy and gregarious, starlings spend much of the year in flocks. While they are still one of the commonest of garden birds, their numbers have declined significantly in recent years. The cause of this decline remains uncertain but it’s thought a reduction in their preferred food sources - invertebrates like earthworms and leatherjackets – may play a part.
The species is renowned for its ability to mimic noises, from other bird calls to car alarms. Starlings are also known for their spectacular gatherings in autumn and winter, known as murmurations.
House sparrows came a close second in County Antrim, followed by chaffinches.
With their lovely colours and varied calls, it’s no wonder a group of these birds is often known as a ‘charm’!
At the other end of the scale, some of the more unusual species reported to RSPB NI included the aptly-named treecreeper which came in at number 39.
Running parallel to Big Garden Birdwatch is Big Schools’ Birdwatch, which this year saw almost 50 schools across County Antrim take part. In playgrounds across Northern Ireland, it was the blackbird which ranked top of the tree!
Amy Colvin from RSPB Northern Ireland commented: “We’re so delighted to see so many people, particularly children, take part in this year’s Birdwatch. For tips and advice visit www.rspb.org.uk.”