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These two avid bird watchers do not qualify for work on the bird census

These two avid bird watchers do not qualify for work on the bird census

For the seventh year in the row, the great tit comes out on top! Both throughout Austria and in Vienna. Get your ornithological-ignorant mind out of the gutter. The great tit is a chickadee (OK – fair enough, I admit that I didn’t know either so enlighten yourself with the Wikipedia tit entry ). Our Austrian

Great tit

Great tit

friends had the sense to call the little critter a Kohlmeise. But what makes the chickadee this year’s champion (again!)? He/she happens to be the bird who most frequently showed up for dinner at bird feeders throughout Austria for 4 days at the beginning of January.

Yes. From Wednesday, January 6 (a holiday in Austria – Three King’s Day) until Saturday, January 9, over 8000 Austrian bird lovers heeded the call of the wild and became official census takers for the Austrian Bird Protection Organization – Birdlife. Dedicating themselves to an hour’s watch at a bird feeder at a time and place of their choice, participants agreed to count how many birds visited the selected feeder within the hour and then take the point in time when the most birds simultaneously visited the feeders — how many were there and which birds they were.

House sparrow (Spatz)

House sparrow (Spatz)

 The 8062 participants submitted 5699 reports which recorded a total of 243,499 birds. Somehow that amounted to an average of 43 birds per Austrian garden, which was up from 39 in 2015 and 34 in 2014. Apparently the birds showed a distinct preference to Styrian (50 birds per yard) over Salzburg (last year’s seed distributor of choice) cuisine. But is it any wonder that our feathered friends choose to hang out with the green-hearted, bird-loving Styrians who can boast 2,014 bird-counting participants? The Tiroleans obviously had better things to do this year (watching skiers in flight?) and can bow their heads at the embarrassing 49% drop in participants.



The siskin seems to be attempting to steal the great tit’s thunder this year by endearing the Austrian media with its incredible jump in rankings from a miserable 29th place in 2015 to sliding into this year’s top 10 at number 10. Not to be outdone, in press coverage, however, is the greenfinch’s uplifting tale of overcoming incredible odds with an apparent come back after a parasite outbreak depleted its numbers (2.4 per garden up from 1.9 last year).

Vienna had 567 bird lovers who submitted 405 reports that indicated 10,691 birds had been spied in the country’s capital city, averaging to about 26 birds per bird feeder. More surprising than the siskin was the rank of the street pigeon sightings in Vienna. The Columba livia came in 10th in the Vienna bird rankings. Or maybe they missed the BirdLife memo and were all too busy collecting leftover kebab and pizza scraps at Schwedenplatz to be bothered with bird feeder visits in Prater.

Don’t miss out on the action next year. Be sure to mark your calendars now for the 2017 winter bird census (Thursday, January 5 – Sunday, January 8, 2017) because as the old, wise Austrian saying goes, a sparrow in the hand is better than a pigeon on the roof! (if only cats understood German)

Just a side note, if you came to this website because you entered “great tits” into your search engine and ended up here: “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, we have to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.” (Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency)

The top 5 birds in Vienna?

Carrion crow

Carrion crow

  • Great tit (of course)
  • Rook
  • House sparrow (is it any wonder that the Austrian near equivalent for “sweetie” is “Spatz” which is the nickname for the house sparrow?)
  • Carrion crow (raven)
  • Blackbird (my faithful, feathered friend who sings me through the Viennese summers)

Top 10 Birds sighted in January 2016 in Austria

  1. Great tit
  2. House sparrow

    Siskin - the Austrian media darling

    Siskin – the Austrian media darling

  3. Field sparrow
  4. Blackbird
  5. Blue tit
  6. Chaffinch
  7. Greenfinch
  8. Goldfinch
  9. Brambling
  10. Siskin

Because you know you’re dying to learn more about the birds:

 Austrian bird website BirdLife that conducts the annual bird census

PDF of 2016 Registration form with instructions and bird images at BirdLife

Results from 2016 – click on map to see more exact results and whether there was an increase or decrease in sightings:

Some fun with a bird quiz in German – do you know the bird?

Hear the great tit in action:

My personal favorite and most frequent visitor to my summer sanctuary: the blackbird answering another bird’s call: