Big Schools’ Birdwatch open for registration

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Eyes peeled: A Big Schools Birdwatch session with a Reception pupil from Livingstone Primary and Nursery School in Hertfordshire (Eleanor Bentall/RSPB)

The Big Schools’ Birdwatch is back for another year and schools are being invited to register for a free support pack offering ideas and resources.

In a year when the value of our gardens and outdoor spaces has been highlighted during the Covid-19 lockdown, schools are being urged to use the event to enrich their outdoor learning programmes.

It is the 20th anniversary of the Big Schools’ Birdwatch, which is run by the RSPB and involves children watching and counting the birds that visit their outdoor space, before submitting their results to form part of the national dataset.

The birdwatch takes place during the first half of the spring term (January 5 to February 22, 2021).

Over the last two decades, more than 70 different species have been recorded during the annual survey. Earlier this year, the 2020 schools’ birdwatch results showed that the blackbird remained at the top of the rankings as the most commonly seen bird by school children, with more than 15,000 sighted. The woodpigeon came in second spot, with the house sparrow third.

Flying high: Song thrushes are among the birds school children can expect to spot during the RSPB Big Schools Birdwatch (top image: Chris Gomersall/RSPB); children watching birds at school (image: David McHugh/RSPB)


The Big Schools Birdwatch is a free activity. Teachers are sent a pack to support the initiative, which includes bird fact files, survey sheets, and general advice and ideas.

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 part of a cross-curricular or enrichment activity.

Many schools prepare for the event by taking measures to give nature a home in their school grounds, such as putting up feeders and nest-boxes and making bird cake.

The activity can also be used as a catalyst for children to improve their outdoor spaces, including as part of the Wild Challenge Award. The Wild Challenge is the RSPB’s online awards scheme. By completing activities ranging from bug hotels and bird boxes to making a compost heap and planting for wildlife, schools can log their achievements and collect bronze, silver and gold awards.

Rachael White, RSPB Big Schools’ Birdwatch co-ordinator said: “For 20 years, Big Schools’ Birdwatch has provided children an opportunity to apply knowledge and skills through outdoor learning while contributing to something bigger – a UK-wide citizen science project.

“Children can also monitor the impact they have made in their school grounds by comparing the number of birds seen one year to the next after making changes such as putting out bird food or planting more wildlife friendly plants which encourage insects the birds feed on – then compare their results to the UK data.”


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