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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 January 2008, 10:52 GMT
UK's bird watching event begins
A house sparrow
The number of house sparrows counted has also fallen by 52%
Thousands of people are expected to spend an hour this weekend taking part in a national survey of garden birds.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds's annual Big Garden Birdwatch aims to find out which species are the most common visitors to UK's gardens.

In 2007, some 400,000 people took part in the survey and counted six million birds in 236,000 gardens.

The RSPB says the goldfinch is likely to make it into the top 10 of species spotted in gardens and parks.

During the past 30 years goldfinch numbers have increased by half in the survey.

Gemma Rogers from the RSPB told the BBC the bird was benefiting from warmer temperatures.

"Goldfinches usually would go to Southern Europe for the winter but they just haven't really needed to as much this year, so we're expecting that more will be around the UK in January than usual."

The RSPB expects people to see fewer blue tits because they are laying their eggs earlier and because of the wetter weather.

Important habitat

RSPB birdwatch record sheet

"The caterpillars will have been washed off the leaves and their food generally will have been harder for them to find," said Ms Rogers.

While chaffinches and great tit numbers have grown in the past three decades, other birds such as the starling and the once-common sparrow have seen a serious drop in the average seen per garden.

Since the event began in 1979, the number of starlings counted has fallen by 76%.

The number of house sparrows counted has also fallen by 52%.

According to the RSPB, gardens are a vitally important habitat for wildlife, and many garden birds are doing well because people provide them with safe havens with food, water and shelter.

The scheme originally began as an activity for children who were members of the Young Ornithologists Club.

Participants are asked to submit their results online and the results will be published in March 2008.

The RSPB will use the information to record patterns in bird numbers and prioritise conservation efforts.

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