Newsletter / Blog

BTO Garden BirdWatch survey - How things have changed

The annual results of the British Trust for Ornithology Garden BirdWatch survey have just been published, revealing nearly five times as many gardens with Goldfinch, but half the number of gardens with Song Thrush. How things have changed in 16 years!

Goldfinches rocketed from number 20 in the garden bird 'league table' to number 10.

The recent cold winters have resulted in numbers of Wren visiting gardens have dropped. The Song Thrush numbers have halved, when compared with 1995.


The European Goldfinch or Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis - breeds across Europe, North Africa and western and central Asia.


The sexes are broadly similar, with a red face, black and white head, warm brown upperparts, white underparts with buff flanks and breast patches, and black and yellow wings. On closer inspection male Goldfinches can often be distinguished by a larger, darker red mask that extends just behind the eye. In females, the red face does not reach the eye. The ivory-coloured bill is long and pointed, and the tail is forked.


The call is a melodic tickeLIT, and the song is a pleasant tinkling medley of trills and twitters, but always including the trisyllabic call phrase or a teLLIT-teLLIT-teLLIT. The song is a pleasant silvery twittering.


The preferred food is small seeds. They feed on various tree seeds, such as alder and birch, and on thistle, teasel. Insects are also taken when feeding young in summer.


They nest in the outer twigs of tall leafy trees. The cup-shaped nest is built by the female. She lays four to six pale blue eggs with reddish markings. They hatch in 11–14 days. The young are fed by both parents.

Conservation status – Least concern

The Goldfinches have more or less recovered from a serious decline in the 1970s and 80s that was possibly caused by increased use of herbicides, but changing agricultural practices still threaten this bird.

Song Thrush

The Song Thrush - Turdus philomelos - is a thrush that breeds across much of Europe and Asia.


The sexes are similar, with plain brown backs and neatly black-spotted cream or yellow-buff underparts, becoming paler on the belly. The underwing is warm yellow, the bill is yellowish and the legs and feet are pink. The upperparts of this species become colder in tone from west to east across the breeding range from Sweden to Siberia. The juvenile resembles the adult, but has buff or orange streaks on the back and wing coverts.


It has a short, sharp tsip call, replaced on migration by a thin high seep, similar to the Redwing's call but shorter. The alarm call is a chook-chook becoming shorter and more strident with increasing danger. The male's song, given from trees, rooftops or other elevated perches, is a loud clear run of musical phrases, repeated two to four times, filip filip filip codidio codidio quitquiquit tittit tittit tereret tereret tereret, and interspersed with grating notes and mimicry.


They are omnivorous, eating a wide range of invertebrates, especially earthworms and snails as well as soft fruits.


The female builds a neat cup-shaped nest in a bush, tree or creeper. She lays four or five bright glossy blue eggs which are lightly spotted. The female incubates the eggs alone for 10–17 days, and after hatching a similar time elapses until the young fledge. Two or three broods in a year is normal.

Conservation Status – Least concern

This bird has an extensive range and a large population, with an estimated 40 to 71 million individuals in Europe alone.



Back Back to top

Follow JoSievers on TwitterCape Town Tourism

Kwikwap Website Consultant: Melanie

Hits to date: 2676948 This business website was developed using Kwikwap

Copyright © 2021 . All Rights Reserved.