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Birdwatchers out in force this weekend for "Finland's most popular nature event"

The annual backyard bird count provides valuable data about long-term population changes – but the top three species remain consistent from year to year, says Birdlife Finland.

The great tit (Parus major) is Finland's most common garden bird. Image: Asko Hauta-aho / Yle
Yle News

This weekend, Birdlife Finland is hosting the country's biggest ornithological event, asking members of the public to report birds seen within one hour in their garden or other location during the traditional two-day Pihabongaus, billed as "Finland's most popular nature event".

As of Sunday evening, nearly 12,000 people had reported backyard bird sightings from some 8,000 locations. As in past winters, the most frequently seen species were great tits, blue tits and magpies, followed by great spotted woodpeckers and bullfinches.

However there are regional variations. In Lapland the top three were great tits, willow tits and magpies, while in Helsinki blackbirds were the most common besides great tits and blue tits.

In the Åland Islands, the most commonly seen birds were bullfinches, followed by great tits and blackbirds.

In recent years, sightings have been reported from more than 15,000 places with the number of observers sometimes exceeding 25,000, according to Birdlife.

It remains to be seen whether Sunday's clear, relatively mild weather encouraged more people to take part. Sightings can be submitted until 3 February.

Scientifically valuable information

Pihabongaus (which translates roughly as "yard spotting") has been held on the last weekend of January since 2006.

Each year, sightings of some 400,000–800,000 individual birds are reported, typically including about 100 species. The species that are most abundant varies more than those that are most common, depending on weather and food availability each winter, for example, the ornithological association says.

Birdlife notes that while Pihabongaus does not provide exact information on the most common or abundant winter birds in Finland, the observations are scientifically valuable as they provide indications of changes in bird populations over the past 17 years.

Many of the trends visible in the results of Pihabongaus are in line with those seen the winter bird census carried out by the Finnish Museum of Natural History, for instance.

According to Birdlife, Pihabongaus is a useful tool for monitoring population changes of many rare species that thrive on garden feeding – such as the grey-headed woodpecker or house sparrows.

A 2020 book by the Museum of Natural History's curator warns that climate change is impacting birds in Finland in an "astonishingly fast" manner.

More information about the birdwatching event and a form to submit sightings are available on the Birdlife website (siirryt toiseen palveluun) in Finnish and Swedish.

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