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People urged to help survey bird species that are disappearing from our gardens

PUBLISHED: 09:43 31 August 2020 | UPDATED: 16:33 31 August 2020

Chaffinch numbers have also dropped by 30pc. Picture: Elizabeth Dack

Chaffinch numbers have also dropped by 30pc. Picture: Elizabeth Dack

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Householders are being asked to record sightings of three species of finches as part of a survey that will help shed light on population numbers.

Male greenfinch feeding a female, Norfolk Wildlife Trust is asking people to record sighting as part of study in numbers. Picture: Elizabeth DackMale greenfinch feeding a female, Norfolk Wildlife Trust is asking people to record sighting as part of study in numbers. Picture: Elizabeth Dack

Norfolk Wildlife Trust is running a ‘citizen science survey’ throughout September, October and November with people urged to count greenfinch, chaffinch and goldfinch.

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The greenfinch’s colourful plumage and distinctive twittering once made it one of our most familiar feathered friends.

But the much-loved bird is fast disappearing from UK gardens because of a deadly disease called trichomonosis - with numbers more than halving in a decade.

The decline in chaffinch numbers may be linked to a disease that has also seen a fall in the greenfinch population. Picture: David SavoryThe decline in chaffinch numbers may be linked to a disease that has also seen a fall in the greenfinch population. Picture: David Savory

It now faces being moved straight to the ‘red list’ - indicating species of greatest concern - should the decline continue at the current rate.

The disease – also known as canker or bird bath disease – is spread by waterborne parasites on bird tables and also affects pigeons.

Meanwhile chaffinch numbers have also dropped by 30pc, according to Thetford-based British Trust for Ornithology. The reason for this decline is not known, but it may also be linked to the disease.

Goldfinch are recognisable from their bright red faces, brown bodies and black wings with yellow wing bars. Picture: Elizabeth DackGoldfinch are recognisable from their bright red faces, brown bodies and black wings with yellow wing bars. Picture: Elizabeth Dack

Norfolk Wildlife Trust said it hoped the public would add sightings in gardens on local parks to an online map to build up a clearer picture of numbers of the three species.

Gemma Walker, senior community officer, said: “You don’t have to be an expert to make a valuable contribution to local knowledge of Norfolk’s wildlife.

“Recording wildlife is an easy way to get involved in wildlife conservation as it helps us to understand a species’ distribution across the county, and identify any areas particularly important or lacking in these species.”

Goldfinch collecting for its nest in a back garden, Picture: Tig WorthingtonGoldfinch collecting for its nest in a back garden, Picture: Tig Worthington

She said during coronavirus lockdown the trust had received many more sighting reports and photographs as people spent more time at home.

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In particular people shared images of birds making the most of the bird feeders and nest boxes, including an increase in the number of greenfinches.

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In 2018 there was a reported increase in numbers of goldfinch, recognisable from their bright red faces, brown bodies and black wings with yellow wing bars.

They are still a fairly common sight in gardens, parks, woodland, heathland and farmland. They eat small seeds and invertebrates and will visit bird tables and feeders too.

The survey runs September, October and November. Add sightings online at: norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk/spotter



Facts about finches

• Ringing of British breeding greenfinches show that they seldom move more than 20km from their birthplace.

• In Victorian times greenfinches were kept in cages as songbirds.

• Local names for the greenfinch are usually linked to the colour and include green linnet and green grosbeak.

• The old East Anglian name for the Chaffinch is “Common Finch” or “Spink”.

• Chaffinch males will spend winter near to their breeding territories whilst the females will migrate further south.

• Chaffinches are mainly monogamous. The male will attract a mate to his territory with his song.

• Vast numbers of goldfinches were trapped as songbirds during the Victorian era, causing their population to crash.

• The collective name for a group of goldfinches is a charm.

• Alternative names for the goldfinch include gold linnet, King Harry and redcap.


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