Garden bird numbers are at their lowest levels in five years, although the number of finches visiting UK gardens is the highest for five years, according to the 2008 Big Garden Birdwatch, carried out by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

Garden bird numbers have declined by a fifth since 2004, although four species of finch have increased in numbers, with the brambling moving from 57 to 36 in the rankings, and the redpoll being seen in twice as many gardens this year as last.

The goldfinch made it into the top 10 for the first time, with a third more birds recorded this year than in 2004.

Dr Andre Farrar of the RSPB said: ‘We’re seeing numbers of goldfinches swell because our milder winters encourage them to stay here instead of going to southern Europe. Our gardens can be very welcoming to finches.’

The song thrush’s numbers are up by 80 per cent year on year, but overall, numbers have fallen by nearly 70 per cent in the past 30 years.

The house sparrow kept the top spot, with an average of 3.6 spotted per garden – although again, overall numbers have fallen by 64 per cent in the past 30 years.

Big Garden Birdwatch is the world’s biggest bird survey, and it took place over the weekend of 26-27 January 2008, with 400,000 people counting a total of six million birds in 228,000 gardens across the UK.

Big Garden Birdwatch 2009 will be the 30th anniversary, and will take place on 24-25 January 2009.

BIG GARDEN BIRDWATCH TOP 10

1. House sparrow

An average of 3.60 sparrows per garden.

2. Starling

An average of 3.44 starlings per garden – but a decline of 77 per cent since 1979.

3. Blackbird

An average of 2.45 blackbirds per garden.

4. Blue tit

An average of 2.29 blue tits per garden – but a decline of 6 per cent since 1979.

5. Chaffinch

An average of 2.15 chaffinches per garden – but a decline of 28 per cent since 1979.

6. Woodpigeon

An average of 1.53 woodpigeons per garden – with an increase of 665 per cent since 1979.

7. Collared dove

An average of 1.43 collared doves per garden – an increase of 411 per cent since 1979.

8. Robin

An average of 1.26 robins per garden – but a decline of 37 per cent since 1979.

9. Great tit

An average of 1.25 great tits per garden – and an increase of 39 per cent since 1979.

10. Goldfinch

The biggest mover from 2007, an average of 1.16 goldfinches were recorded in gardens this year.

Garden bird numbers are, however, at their lowest levels in five years, although the number of finches visiting UK gardens is the highest for five years, according to the RSPB’s 2008 Big Garden Birdwatch.

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