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Last Updated: Monday, 6 March 2006, 13:49 GMT
Seeds 'boost goldfinch numbers'
Goldfinch (pic: BTO)
Goldfinches were prized as cage birds in the 19th century
One of Britain's most elegant songbirds is making a comeback - thanks to "high energy" seeds, new research suggests.

Goldfinches visit twice as many gardens as a decade ago, the British Trust for Ornithology said after it studied information from 17,000 birdwatchers.

Trust experts said the bird, in decline until recently, benefited from bird lovers hanging seed feeders filled with sunflower hearts or nyger seeds.

There are about 300,000 breeding pairs of goldfinches in Britain.

The BTO's Garden Birdwatch scheme monitors gardens around Britain and Ireland with the help of 17,000 birdwatchers.

The trust's Mike Toms said goldfinches were just "occasional visitors" to the country's gardens a decade ago.

"There is no doubt in my mind that people putting out high-energy seed mixes in their gardens have made a real difference for this species," he said.

The trust, which conducts its birdwatch survey alongside CJ Wildbird Foods, said the new seeds had helped the bird survive the cold winter months.

The goldfinch is most abundant in lowland areas in Britain and Ireland, where it feeds on plants such as groundsel, dandelion and ragwort.

In the 19th century its numbers came under pressure as it was highly prized as a caged bird.

More recently, widespread use of herbicides in farming resulting in fewer seeds for feeding, further contributing to the bird's decline.

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