20 years of Manx BirdLife Garden Birdwatch

This week, Manx BirdLife is celebrating 20 years of our Garden Birdwatch by releasing a report analysing the data that has been collected in that time.

Initially set up in 1999, the Garden Birdwatch was fully rolled out across the island in 2000.  Since then, 157 different species of bird have been recorded and over 4 million records submitted as part of the scheme, allowing us to follow the changes in our garden bird communities.

Taking on the mammoth task of analysing all of that data is Volunteer ecologist Alexandra King and her report, ’20 Years of Manx BirdLife Garden Birdwatch: An assessment and compilation of more than 20 years of citizen science in the Isle of Man’, has shown some interesting results.

There have been big changes in the ten most common species recorded in gardens over the 20 years with species such as Blue Tits, Great Tits and Robins all declining, in fact the Robin has dropped out of the top ten altogether being the 12th most recorded bird in 2020.  The biggest decline seen in a species was the Greenfinch, which was the fourth most common bird in gardens in 2000 but by 2020 was only the 19th most commonly recorded species.  This decline is mirrored in the UK and is most likely due to the rise of the finch disease trichomoniasis.

Some species have seen an increase in number, with Starlings, Jackdaws and Rooks all being recorded more frequently but the biggest increase was seen in Goldfinches, which moved from 24th on the list to third!

One species that has proven to be reliable across the two decades, is the House Sparrow, which has remained in the number one spot as the most commonly recorded species, albeit in reduced numbers.

Report author, Alexandra King says ‘It’s so important to not only focus on the rarities and unusual birds, but to spotlight our garden birds, which play a valuable role in the ecosystem. I’m very excited to be able to provide this insight into our garden bird species, and to show the value of long-term citizen science projects such as this’.

Manx BirdLife Managing Director Allison Leonard added ‘Alex’s report has really highlighted some of the changes we are seeing in our garden birds.  There are species that we just don’t see in gardens anymore, such as the Bullfinch, while other species like Greater Spotted Woodpecker have become so much more common. Without people contributing all of this time and effort, we just wouldn’t know these things’.

If you would like a copy ’20 Years of Manx BirdLife Garden Birdwatch: An assessment and compilation of more than 20 years of citizen science in the Isle of Man’ or more information on joining the Garden Birdwatch scheme, please contact Manx BirdLife at enquiries@manxbirdlife.im.