The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ Big Garden Birdwatch takes place on the weekend of the 27-29 January. It’s an annual event that gives us the opportunity to enjoy watching the birds in our gardens or in a local park, whilst recording the number of different species that we see during the hour of our choosing.

The data submitted will help the RSPB to monitor how British birds are coping with the effects of climate change and habitat management. Unfortunately, many of the birds that were common visitors to bird tables and garden feeders just a few decades ago, have seen their numbers plummet in recent years.

I can’t remember the last time I saw a greenfinch here on the east side of Birmingham. They used to compete with the house sparrows at feeding time, but the greenfinch population has been decimated by the effects of an infection to their beaks called Trichomonosis. Sadly, there is evidence that the outbreak has been spread by poor hygiene in the gardens where people regularly supply food for birds.

Garden birds are wild, but it’s not true that they are hardier animals because they live outdoors. They require conditions that help them to remain healthy and disease free, just like the animals we like to keep indoors with us as pets. It’s important that bird tables, feeders and bird baths are cleaned regularly to help minimize the risk of cross-contamination. 

It’s a reminder of how human behaviour impacts wildlife in our cities and towns.

Birmingham Friends of the Earth is currently running a campaign calling on Birmingham City Council to produce and implement a no-pesticide strategy by 2025, which includes:

  • A complete ban on the use of all pesticides 
  • Stop spraying weeds
  • Go organic with all seeds and bulbs
  • Use only peat-free compost
  • Use organic growing practices when caring for all council owned spaces
  • Ensure that the management of council owned spaces considers all biodiversity.

Despite food provided on tables and feeders, most birds in the city depend on insects, fruit and berries that are available through the year. If our parks, gardens and green spaces are not managed considerately, toxins from pesticides can build up in these natural food supplies and damage the health of our feathered friends.

And as many of us are now beginning to realize, signs of distress and damage in the natural world are likely to indicate problems for all of us living in a shared environment. Put simply, if a pesticide free city is better for the birds and wildlife that live here, it would be better for us too. 

Before taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch, we encourage you to sign the petition asking for a pesticide free Birmingham here. You know it makes sense!

Written by Jolyon Walford