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Saturday, 26 January, 2002, 00:01 GMT
Bird survey could be Britain's biggest
A robin, PA
Last year the robin was the seventh most common bird
The biggest ever survey of Britain's bird population is expected to take place over the weekend.

Conservation charity, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), is encouraging members of the public to spend an hour on Saturday or Sunday counting the birds in their garden or local park.

We hope that everyone who enjoys birds will be able to help us to build up a picture of how garden birds are faring all over the UK

Andy Waters
The charity hopes more than 100,000 people will help it find out which species are doing well and which are in decline.

Last year's survey surprised organisers by revealing the sparrow had been knocked off its perch by the starling and blue tit as the most common garden bird.

There was also concern about the total number of birds, as even starlings were found in half the numbers they were five years ago.

Best results

The RSPB, which has organised the survey every year since 1979, says people should go out in their gardens in the morning to get the best results.

This is because birds normally feed at this time after the cold winter nights. RSPB spokesman Andy Waters said: "The survey is great fun and very popular.

"We hope that everyone who enjoys birds will be able to help us to build up a picture of how garden birds are faring all over the UK."

2001's most common birds
1) Starling
2) House sparrow
3) Blue tit
4) Blackbird
5) Chaffinch
6) Greenfinch
7) Robin
8) Great tit
9) Collared dove
10) Wood pigeon
Last year's survey was helped by 50,000 people in 30,000 gardens.

In the past, the survey became one of the first to show a fall in song thrush numbers in British gardens.

The numbers of many familiar garden birds are declining rapidly, and the RSPB says that if this is to be tackled it is important to gather as much information about these birds as possible.

Since the early 1970's the population of song thrushes has fallen by 50%.

Between 1975 and 1998, house sparrows decreased across the UK by nearly 60% and they have almost disappeared from the centres of London and Glasgow.

The BBC's Graham Satchell
"The charity says the survey should ideally be done in the morning"
Paul Outhwaite, RSPB
"The survey has been going on for 24 years now"
See also:

09 May 01 | Sci/Tech
Wild bird poisonings soar by half
16 Jan 01 | Scotland
Robin 'cull' fears raised
05 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
Europe's farms push birds to brink
04 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Warming 'could affect' winter birds
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