Big Schools’ Birdwatch kicks off on January 6

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Heads-up: A Big Schools’ Birdwatch session at Lawdale Junior School in London (Eleanor Bentall/RSPB Images)

Pupils are being asked to take part in the country’s largest national wildlife survey when the RSPB’s Big Schools’ Birdwatch launches on January 6.

The initiative runs until February 20 and will see tens of thousands of pupils watching and counting the birds which visit their school grounds or outdoor spaces.

The survey results are sent to the RSPB and play a vital role in the charity’s work, offering a valuable snapshot of how the UK’s bird population is faring.

Over the last two decades, more than 70 difference species have been recorded in school grounds. The woodpigeon claimed the number one spot in the Big School Birdwatch rankings as the most commonly seen bird with an average of seven per school spotted in 2022. The blackbird took second place with the carrion crow completing the top three.

The birdwatch is a free activity and teachers are sent a pack to facilitate the project. Schools can pick any day during the first half of the spring term to take part, with the flexibility to run it as a one-off or as the centre piece of a cross-curricular study, enrichment activity or a way for the children to improve their outdoor space.

The pack includes bird fact files, survey sheets, and advice on how to get the most out of their Birdwatch.

Count on us: (from top) children on the Big Schools’ Birdwatch (image David McHugh); a goldfinch carduelis in County Durham, one of more than 70 different species spotted over the years (image: John Bridges); RSPB schools outreach officer Julie Foreman runs a Big Schools’ Birdwatch session at Livingstone Primary and Nursery School in Hertfordshire (image: Eleanor Bentall)

Rachael Albon, coordinator of the Big Schools’ Birdwatch, said: “The Big Schools’ Birdwatch offers children the chance to contribute to a UK-wide citizen science project in their school grounds.

“This year we have made the Birdwatch even better by including historical results data so classes can compare their sightings with national data from previous years. It’s a great opportunity to provide a valuable learning experience and, together, be part of something bigger.

“Whatever you see – one blackbird, twenty sparrows or no birds at all – it all counts. It helps us build that vital overall picture of how our school birds are faring from one year to the next. With so much challenging our birds now, it’s more important than ever to submit your results.”

The Big Schools’ Birdwatch counts as one activity towards the RSPB's free Wild Challenge award, which inspires pupils to learn through nature by choosing from more than 20 other activities.

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