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Count your garden birds

Feed the birds

In Belgium during the weekends of January 27-28, 2024 (in Flanders) and February 3-4 (in Wallonia), thousands of people across the country will be taking part in the annual census of garden birds. It’s organised by the Belgian nature conservation societies Natuurpunt (Flemish) and Natagora (French). The statistics gathered give a useful picture of the current status of garden birds in Belgium. For example, the information can help ecologists spot a declining species, and take the first steps to aid recovery.

Get the children involved

If you want to take part, it’s simple; and it’s particularly fun for children. Simply record the highest number of each bird species seen during one of the weekends. It can be in your garden or on your balcony, and either on the Saturday or Sunday, or both. You don’t have to spend all weekend staring out of your window; half an hour is sufficient. The morning is the best time to look, when the birds are out and about, feeding after a cold winter’s night. But remember – you should note the maximum number you see at any one time. So if for example you see 5 greenfinches at nine o’clock on Saturday and 7 at ten o’clock, you don’t write down 12, but 7.

Count garden birds

If you are not sure how to tell a blue tit from a great tit, or a house sparrow from a tree sparrow (or what they are called in Dutch or French), don’t worry, just use the forms that I mention below which have colour photographs of the birds you are most likely to see.

Use the Dutch form below to help you identify the birds in Dutch and fill in your observations. You then submit them online here.

Use the form below to see what the birds are called in French, then submit your sightings here.

In bilingual Brussels, just choose the language that suits you best. And no, I do not understand why Flanders and Wallonia have different weekends for these bird counts!

If you want some advice on how to attract birds to your garden, check out my post on feeding garden birds.

Many countries throughout the world organise their own bird counts on specific weekends. If your country does not seem to do so, don’t worry. You can still count your garden birds, wherever you live, in any country of the world, and submit them to a great global initiative called eBird.

Nature projects for children

Did you know that there’s a whole range of nature projects on this website? Some are ideal for children and grandchildren. Here are a few examples:

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23 thoughts on “Count your garden birds”

  1. Thanks for the heads up, Denzil. We just happen to be in San Diego that weekend and should see a lot of birds. Since my husband is for the birds (literally and figuratively), it would be a great assignment for him. 🙂

  2. This is such a fun and useful event to participate in. I wish I could do this (Southern California) but we live in an artificially fabricated eucalyptus woods and the birds hate it. The only feathered friends for decades were crows – noisy and messy. Now we do get peregrine falcons but I’m lucky to spot the pair a couple of times over the season. Sometimes a hummingbird flits by but for the most part, this faux bois doesn’t provide an avian enriching environment – all the more reason for those who live in areas that do to enjoy the count.

    As for the competing counting corporations – their system is for the birds. They ought to get their act together.

    1. Never heard of a eucalyptus wood Sharon. Shame it’s pretty dead.
      A lot of things are double here, due to the language division. So there will be a French and Dutch version of pretty much identical organisations or services. I guess it keeps more people in work.

    2. Amen, Sharon – Denzil, I’ve got birds in my back yard, not a huge diversity, but last week for a few mornings there was a lot of early morning clamoring by a flock of parrots 🙂

  3. Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Denzil. I was unaware of such a census and I’m pleased to see that the USA also participates. We have three hummingbirds and about six small brown-feathered birds. I’ll have to find out their name.

  4. Denzil, many thanks for mentioning this as I usually read about the event afterwards. I used to think you had to spend the whole weekend bird-watching but from your book realise it’s just an hour and as the RSB website says ‘Make sure it’s comfy and you have the essentials within easy reach – a nice, hot drink and your favourite biscuits – and somewhere to jot down what you see.’ Fun and easy … I hope.
    Look forward to taking part … reckon I’ll get stressed when there are many birds around the feeders!

  5. Great, and again a wonderful activity for children! I will bookmark February 15-18 and do my part here in Colombia which reportedly has the largest number of bird species of any country on the planet.

      1. She lives on a large block of land with many trees and has a big bird feeder right outside the back door. She loves to sit just inside and watch all the native birds come to the feeder. I already know she would win hands down! 🙂

  6. Pingback: Home-based nature projects for children: #1 – Watching garden birds – Discovering Belgium

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