a young boy birdwatches

The Big Birdwatch

The RSPB is inviting early years settings and parents of young children to join in with its Big Birdwatch – here’s how you can get involved

Birdwatching is one of the easiest ways to explore nature with children. You don’t need any special equipment and just a small amount of outdoor space. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ (RSPB’s) Big Birdwatch is taking place this month and is open to all families who'd like to take part. 

a young girl birdwatchesThe national birdwatch has been held every year since 2002 and offers participants free resources including activity ideas and downloadable stories in return for taking part. This year the RSPB has introduced activities specifically designed for both families and early years practitioners. The wildlife charity has also teamed up with CBeebies’ Twirlywoos to encourage younger children to join in with the event.

The birdwatch is taking place from 2 January to 23 February and is set to be the biggest ever wildlife survey with education settings taking part. Anyone can join in: families, pre-schools, nurseries, childminders and playgroups, as well as schools. In 2017, 73,000 children helped the RSPB count more than 100,000 birds.

The RSPB is asking children to spend one hour watching and recording any birds that visit their outdoor space. Parents or early years professionals are asked to share their results with the RSPB so they can be analysed. This offers the charity an insight into which species are the most common and how the numbers are changing.

Early learning

Not only does the birdwatch help with the RSPB’s conservation work, but it also provides a fun activity for children. Birdwatching helps bring children closer to nature and could inspire an interest in wildlife. You can use the birdwatch as a way to explore other related activities, particularly around any interests your child(ren) show as you're taking part in the Birdwatch.

three young girls enjoy birdwatchingThe RSPB has worked to ensure that the Big Birdwatch plan works with the early learning goals your child will be working towards if they attend any kind of early years setting, as set out in the Early Years Foundation Stage, to help support children’s ‘understanding the world’ journey. Nicky Thomas, early years project officer at the RSPB, explains: “They will be able to comment and ask questions about their familiar world, recognise similarities, differences, patterns and change in what they see and experience as well as showing care and concern for living things and the environment.”

By learning about birds, children will develop new skills – making links between their own needs and those of the birds that visit their outdoor space. Nicky says: “They will be finding out and exploring what is already welcoming birds to their outside space and feel proud as they achieve what they set out to do by counting and identifying some familiar birds.”  

Adding extra activities will expand the learning opportunities. “Making these crumbly pastry maggots to feed the birds with is a great finger gym and fine motor skills activity,” Nicky suggests.

How to join in

The birdwatch should last for just one hour – you can pick any time of the day that suits. It could be offered as part of a wider project, or just as a oneoff. It could even take place over an outdoor lunch break. The only restriction is that it must take place in the first half of this spring term - by the 29th of January for families, or 23rd of February if you're an early years setting or school.

Register to take part online and you’ll find everything you need to take part including more suggested activites.

Making pastry maggots

Ingredients: 86g flour, 30g larda young girl watches for birds with an adult

  1. Put the flour in a bowl
  2. Mix in the lard with the tips of your fingers
  3. Rub the dry mixture into little pieces that look like maggots
  4. Sprinkle these onto the ground, on your birdtable or around bushes and flowerbeds


Paper plate birds

Equipment: paper plates, paint, paintbrushes, googly eyes, glue, pipe cleaners, pieces of card, paper

  1. Fold the plate in half and unfold it
  2. Paint the base colour – for example black for a blackbird or orange for a robin.
  3. Fold the plate again so it can stand up.
  4. Use the eyes, paper, pipecleaners and card to add a beak, wings and a tail


common uk birds


Look out for these common birds in the UK

Last year, the most commonly-seen bird was the blackbird, with 88% of education settings reporting seeing them.

  1. Blackbird – Black feathers with bright orange-yellow beaks and eye-rings.
  2. Starling – Look black from a distance but purples and greens can be seen up close.
    They tend to be smaller than blackbirds
  3. Woodpigeon – Grey with a white patch on its neck.
  4. Carrion crow – All black, including the beak and feet. These are usually seen alone or in pairs.
  5. Black headed gull – All white, or white with a chocolate-brown head.
  6. House sparrow – Speckled with blacks and browns, but the males will also have a strip of blue on their heads.
  7. Magpie – Distinctive black and white bird with a long tail – up close you might notice purple-blue hues on its feathers.
  8. Robin – Golden brown with a bright red vest.
    These are found all year round – not just at Christmas.
  9. Blue tit – Blue, yellow and white bird that often travels in groups. Younger birds will have yellow instead of white cheeks.
  10. Jack Daw – A small black crow with pale eyes and a slightly silver patch behind its head.



How to make a birdfeeder

This guide to making your own birdfeeder is shared with permission from the Sainsbury's Money Matters blog

Sainsbury’s Bank Guide to Building a Bottle Bird Feeder

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If you go down to the woods today...