RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch shows starling numbers falling in Scotland

adult starling with young
Image caption Despite the decline, starlings remain one of the country's most common birds

Fewer starlings are visiting Scottish gardens than ever before, according to the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch.

It found starling numbers have fallen by almost a fifth in the past decade - although the bird is still the third most common garden visitor.

The nation-wide survey has raised fresh concerns for one of the country's most recognisable garden birds.

Experts said the reasons for the starling's relative decline were not fully known.

A record-breaking 53,000 Scots took part in this year's Big Garden Birdwatch, each spending one hour over the weekend of 28th and 29th January recording the wildlife in their gardens or local parks.

RSPB Scotland compared the information gathered with previous years to identify any long-term trends that may require further scientific investigation.

The results show sightings of starlings, which are best known for their squabbling bird-table behaviour and spectacular murmurations, have declined by 17% in Scotland since 2002.

Keith Morton, species policy officer at RSPB Scotland, said: "The fact this bird ranked third in this year's Big Garden Birdwatch shows that it is still a fairly common garden regular.

"However, looking back on the results over the years it is clear that where once you may have seen as many as 15 of these highly sociable birds at any one time, nowadays, in some areas you may see as few as two or three.

"The causes are not well understood and, because many starlings migrate from breeding grounds in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe to winter here then declines may reflect environmental changes elsewhere in Europe."

However, Mr Morton said surveys were revealing declines in the UK's own breeding starling populations too, and further work is needed to understand these losses.

A total of 592,475 people across the UK counted more than nine million birds in this year's Big Garden Birdwatch, with more than 70 species being recorded in gardens.

For the first time since 2005, the house sparrow claimed the top spot in Scotland, with an average of 5.5 birds spotted in 70% of gardens.

The chaffinch fell to second place, with the starling, blue tit and blackbird completing the top five.

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