Goldcrest Population Boom! Have You Spotted One Yet?
Goldcrest aren’t the most common of garden visitors. However, over the past two winters, sightings of them have gone up. In February 2017, after a particularly cold snap, reported sightings were up 35% from the previous five year average. This means goldcrest were appearing in nearly 10% of gardens across the country, up from 6%.
Winters have been relatively mild over the past few years so birdwatchers are confident that numbers have been boosted and sightings could be similarly high this winter. If the many goldcrest spotted earlier this year had a successful breeding season, there’s certainly a very good possibility. And high preliminary counts for September seem to point in that direction.
For anyone hoping to spot a goldcrest in their garden this winter, here’s a quick rundown of their appearance, habitat and favourite foods:
Along with the firecrest, the goldcrest is the country’s smallest bird. These pretty song birds weigh just 5-6g and usually measure between 8 and 9cm. They are a grey-green colour with a pale undercarriage. Their most distinctive feature is a bright stripe of colour on their heads (yellow in females and orange in males), which is outlined in black. They have a thin, delicate beak, perfectly designed to pick out insects from between pine needles.
Goldcrest can be found all across the country. They’re naturally a woodland bird and usually make their homes in pine forests. However, when food becomes scarce during colder months, they can be found in gardens, with sightings usually peaking during the months of February and March. During this time, goldcrest like to flock together with other small birds such as blue tits and great tits, and can often be heard before they are seen.
Goldcrest love to eat insects, particularly spiders and moth eggs, which they find in conifer trees. Their favourite foods are harder to come by during winter months and their small size makes coping with cold weather particularly tough. They expend a lot of energy trying to stay warm so fat balls and suet-based products are often a big hit. Leave fatty food out on your bird table or hang along with your bird feeder to give these birds some essential winter nutrition.
Leave out some tasty treats and you may be lucky enough to spot a goldcrest in your garden this winter. All recent records point to another bumper year for sightings so brush up on their appearance and keep your eyes peeled.
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