Robin still Ireland’s favourite garden bird despite finches’ return

The robin has retained its position as Ireland’s top garden bird, according to the annual BirdWatch survey.
Robin still Ireland’s favourite garden bird despite finches’ return

The red-breasted Christmas favourite, was recorded in almost all Irish gardens (99.8%) surveyed in the three months to February 2016.

This was the sixth season the feisty little species came top of the tree.

It was followed on the league table by the blackbird, which was recorded in 99.3% of gardens, retaining its position at number two.

The third most common visitor was the blue tit (98.1%), then the chaffinch (95.3%), great tit (95.1%), coal tit (92.4%), magpie (91.9%), and goldfinch (86.5%).

One of the biggest surprises for the bird charity was the return of the greenfinch (84%) to the top 10. This followed years of decline due to the pervasive trichomoniasis disease.

The top 10 was completed by the house sparrow, seen in 83.3% of gardens.

The goldfinch’s position at number eight was an all-time high for one of Ireland’s most colourful garden birds, possibly due to the increasing number of birdfeeders in domestic gardens.

The “standout predator” of last winter’s survey, meanwhile, was the sparrowhawk, which was seen in some 40% — a record high — of Irish gardens.

BirdWatch field surveyor Oran O’Sullivan said more than 5,000 Irish and UK households also took part in a goldfinch-specific survey last winter undertaken by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

The results suggest that the growing numbers of goldfinch visitors may be the result of birdfeed being left out by householders.

“The preliminary results of the BTO feeding survey revealed that goldfinches appear to prefer feeding on the supplementary food that we provide, rather than the natural foods available in gardens,” Mr O’Sullivan told the latest edition of e-wings magazine. “Sunflower hearts were overwhelmingly the preferred option, with Nyjer seed coming second.”

One respondent in Santry, Dublin, seemed to confirm these findings, noting she was “thrilled” one day to see a flock of 40 goldfinches feeding on sunflower hearts.

Meanwhile, the Irish Garden Bird Survey 2016/2017 begins on Monday, December 5. To sign up, visit

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