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Count birds in your garden in France this weekend to help researchers

The twice-annual counts are in their 11th year and offer major assistance to bird scientists

A photo of a goldfinch on a feeding board in a garden

The goldfinch is one of the birds that appears to be more common in gardens but is facing a struggle when it comes to finding food Pic: GWI / Shutterstock

France’s main bird protection agency is calling on people in France to count the number of birds they see and identify the species they see during an hour this weekend so they can monitor changes.

For the past 11 years, twice a year, the La Ligue de protection des oiseaux (LPO) has been inviting people to choose a patch of land (or even a balcony) and count the birds that come into it during a given hour. 

The counts happen on the last weekend of January and the last weekend in May.

Last January (2022), 24,048 people took part and In the past decade, 95,418 gardens have been used and more than 6.5 million birds counted over 115,000 hours.

How do I take part?

You can register on the LPO website where you will also be asked to give the details of where you are participating from. Once registered:

  • Choose one hour to count, during the day, on either Saturday or Sunday, January 28 / 29
  • Go outside at your chosen hour
  • Count all the birds that you can see that have land in the area over the time including on branches and on the ground
  • Identify their species
  • Report your findings on the LPO website

There are tips for identifying bird species on the website.

The counts take place in January and May due to the vast differences in season between the two. In January, the birds are managing in the middle of winter. In contrast, in May, they are much more active and in their reproduction stage.

The events also help scientists to create a database of “the dynamics of common bird populations in our gardens” and “compare them to the trends seen by ornithological expert programmes”, the LPO said.

In its 10-year report, the agency said: “Birds have numerous characteristics that mean they are very good indicators of the state of global biodiversity health.”

Read also: The company that is bringing new forests to life in France

‘Unbalanced ecosystem’ threatening birds

It comes days after the LPO published a damning report on the state of birds in the country today. Based on 10 years of counting, the report showed that bird populations are being threatened by the “unbalancing of ecosystems”.

More than 49% of the species seen in gardens have experienced an increase in numbers over the past 10 years. In contrast, 11% have seen a decline.

Plus, observing more birds in gardens is not necessarily a good thing overall. For example, the goldfinch has seen its winter sightings increase by 83%, but this is because their usual food source – grains from farmland – has significantly decreased due to intensive farming practices. As a result, they flock to gardens instead.

Overall, however, fewer birds are normally not a good sign. For example, 41% of species seen in the May counts have decreased in number. The black swift has even dropped by 46%, while blue tits have dropped 17%.

This is partly due to increased heatwaves, pesticide use, and the disappearance of flying insects, which are also typically a food source for birds.

Even renovating your house roof can have an impact; roofs being repaired means there are fewer places for birds to make their nest. This also highlights the fragility of ecosystems and the effects that human practices can have on animals.

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