Following the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch which concluded the first month of the new decade, the latest report from the British Trust of Ornithology (BTO) suggests the wren has become the UK's ‘commonest bird’, with over 11 million pairs.


They led the way in the last report from 2013, with a population of 8.5 million pairs. It's thought that milder winters are probably benefitting the species.

Out of a total of 249 breeding species assessed in the report, 21 species have estimates of more than one million pairs.

“It is great to have these latest estimates of the numbers of our birds,” says lead author Ian Woodward. “Knowing how many of which species we have is important for many reasons, not least of which is the ability to make better informed decisions when it comes to conservation policy and site management.”

In second place was the robin, the unofficial national bird of the UK, with 7.35 million pairs.

Robin on post Getty
Robin. © Mark L Stanley/Getty

The report estimations the populations of bird species, with the top five places being claimed by garden birds:

  • Wren: 11 million pairs
  • Robin: 7.35 million pairs
  • House sparrow: 5.3 million pairs
  • Woodpigeon: 5.15 million pairs
  • Chaffinch and blackbird: 5.05 millions pairs (each)
Robin (Erithacus rubecula) in spring

The report also contains some bad news, with turtle doves down from 75,000 pairs in 1997 to just 3,600.

Worryingly, it has also found that there are no more breeding waders in the UK that have a population greater than 100,00 pairs, with the lapwing and oystercatcher falling below this for the first time.

In addition, surely the most surprising discovery from this report, is the fall in numbers of the chaffinch. Although in the top five, their breeding population has dropped by 1.15 million pairs since the last report in 2013, and BTO scientists are unsure why.

Chaffinch. © Jacky Parker Photography/Getty

Read the full report in British Birds.


Main image: The wren is the most common breeding bird in the UK. © Mark Hamblin/Getty