Public invited to annual garden bird count in France

The siskin is just one of the birds likely to be most common in gardens

For the seventh consecutive year, the French public is being asked to help with the national garden bird counting event from bird protection group la Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO).

Together with the natural history museum le Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle (MNHN), the LPO is asking the general public to take part in the bird counting event on the last weekend of January (January 26 and 27).

Taking part can help scientists understand the current state and health of the national bird population, and gauge the impact of factors such as local agriculture and climate.

The coal tit (Geograph.org.uk/Sylvia Duckworth/Creative Commons)

(Coal tit)

The principle is simple: To count how many birds, and of what species, you can see in or from a given space - such as a garden, local square, school playground, balcony or urban park - in a selected one-hour window.

To take part, choose one of the two days, and a good hour to observe - such as mid-morning or early-afternoon, when temperatures will be slightly higher and birds are likely to be out more.

Count and note down each bird you see in that one-hour timeframe, and then send your data to the event’s website, l’Observatoire des oiseaux des jardins : www.oiseauxdesjardins.fr.

Anyone can take part, and you do not have to be part of the LPO to do so; many birds can be identified with a quick search online.

Birds most likely to be seen in domestic gardens in France include hawfinches (French name grosbec casse-noyaux; Coccothraustes coccothraustes); siskins (tarin des aulnes; spinus spinus); coal tits (mésange noire; periparus ater); sparrows (moineau; passer domesticus); robins (rouge-gorge; erithacus rubecula); chaffinches (pinson; fringilla coelebs) and bullfinches (bouvreuil; pyrrhula).

(Chaffinch / Bullfinch / Robin / Sparrow) Wikimedia Commons/Picryl

(Chaffinch / Bullfinch / Robin / Sparrow)

At this point in the year, birds may often head to private gardens in search of food,as the local countryside may be more bare than usual - especially in agricultural areas.

Last year, the study found that birds were especially abundant in gardens, with an average of 38 birds counted per garden - amounting to 300,000 in total.

Yet, studies have shown that since autumn 2018, the number of birds in people’s gardens appears to have dropped. Between November and mid-December, there were almost 50% fewer birds (40,000) compared to the autumn of 2017 (74,000).

The hawfinch (Bestalex / Wikimedia Commons / CC0)

(Hawfinch)

The LPO suggests two reasons for this: firstly, that temperatures did not drop very low (and still have not) across the country, so birds migrating from the North of Europe may have delayed their journey.

Secondly, higher temperatures may mean that food is more plentiful everywhere, meaning birds have less reason to come into private gardens seeking extra nourishment.

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