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Last Updated: Wednesday March 26 2008 07:29 GMT

Finches soaring into UK gardens

A goldfinch

Sightings of finches by eagle-eyed bird watchers in the UK have hit their highest level for five years.

Finches are little birds with pointed beaks and wings. Some common types are the goldfinch and the chaffinch.

The sightings were reported as part of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds' annual winter survey of all the different types of birds in Britain.

Almost 400,000 people spent an hour in January counting more than six million feathered friends in gardens or parks.

The RSPB said warmer winters meant more birds, and in particular goldfinches, were staying in the UK.

That's because the warmer weather means it's not as hard for them to find food.

A blackbird
The number of blackbirds has fallen
The goldfinch has made it into the top 10 most commonly spotted birds for the first time. But overall, the animal charity said the number of birds spotted this year had fallen by 20% since 2004.

That includes a continued drop in sightings of some of the most common birds, such as the house sparrow, blackbird and starling, since the survey began 29 years ago.