Goldfinches are colonising London, with their numbers up almost 53% compared with five years ago.

Their dramatic rise in numbers is in stark contrast with the plight of the Capital’s more common garden birds; the starling, house sparrow and blackbird. In the last half-a-decade, Greater London’s blackbird population has shrunk 19%, starlings are down 12% and the long-term downward trend of house sparrows appears to have bottomed-out.

31,500 Londoners took part in January’s Big Garden Birdwatch. They recorded the different birds visiting their gardens over the course of an hour and submitted the results to the conservation charity, the RSPB. NB. Borough-by-borough statistics are available upon request for Greater London.

“The results have confirmed our suspicions,” says RSPB London’s Tim Webb.

“Something is continuing to drive down the number of common garden birds in the Capital. For some reason the tiny goldfinch is bucking the trend. It could be that they are being driven into urban areas from their rural strongholds by a need to find seeds and bugs to eat. We are definitely losing supplies of natural food in both our cities and the countryside; and that’s why we’re asking people to step-up their support for our campaigns calling for smart development and the retention of European funding for wildlife friendly farming.”

Despite falling numbers, the starling and house sparrow remain Greater London’s top two most common garden birds with the blue tit in third place. Their declines over the past five years show remarkable similarities, although the house sparrow appears to be responding to huge conservation efforts to halt its loss.

This year the RSPB is repeating a study conducted a decade ago to map the cockney sparrow across Greater London.

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