Goldfinch rise seen in garden survey

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Goldfinches are now found in almost five times as many gardens as they were 16 years ago, latest figures from the British Trust for Ornithology show.

But while the annual results for the trust’s Garden BirdWatch survey reveal an influx of the colourful farmland bird into people’s gardens, other species such as thrushes have shown major declines since the scheme started in 1995.

Goldfinches are now found in 58 per cent of gardens, up from just 12 per cent in the mid 1990s.

The trust suggests the increase is down to better food and feeders in gardens for the birds, who particularly like nyjer seeds, along with pressure on food supplies in the countryside.

The bird count, which involves thousands of households tracking the birds in their gardens every week throughout the year, reveals a number of other species which are struggling.

Starlings were seen in 71 per cent of gardens in 1995 but in 2011 were seen in less than half (47 per cent) while greenfinches are down by about the same amount – falling from 71 per cent to 53 per cent.

Song thrushes are now seen in only half as many gardens as they were 16 years ago, with only 15 per cent of people now spotting them, while the number of gardens with mistle thrushes has reached a 16-year low, the trust’s Dr Tim Harrison said.

Dr Harrison said the fall in thrush populations spotted in gardens mirrored wider declines in the species, which experts believe is down to poor survival rates after fledging and during the birds’ first winter.

He said dry springs and early summer, such as that experienced last year, hit thrushes while recent cold winters will also have had an impact.

The year-round survey also revealed bramblings were a much more common late-winter visitor in 2011 than in the previous two years.

Last year’s mild autumn and early winter left gardens much quieter than the previous couple of years, with blackbird numbers down two-fifths on the same period in 2009 and 2010.

Last spring saw goldfinches and bullfinches rise well above numbers seen in the previous two years.