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Believe it or not ... starlings are going missing; Species placed on RSPB list of concern.

Byline: JOE THOMAS

CONCERN was today growing over the demise of popular garden birds in Merseyside.

Starlings and house sparrows are the worst hit, with the numbers of both species in freefall in the region.

Experts at the RSPB are unsure why the much-loved birds are disappearing from the skies and have set up a research project to see why their populations are in freefall.

The national project will see researchers working with farmers to examine whether there is enough food and nesting sites for starlings.

Known for its chirpy, chattering song, the starling is often heard singing from trees in gardens and parks.

The birds provide a useful service to farmers and gardeners by feeding on pests which blight crops.

But the numbers recorded in winter by the RSPB's annual Big Garden Birdwatch have fallen by 80% since 1979 and by nearly one-third in just 10 years.

The dwindling population has led the RSPB to place the species on their "red list" of high concern along with the CHATTERING: house sparrow.

A starling In 1979 bird lovers would typically see 10 starlings in their gardens every hour. Now the number is down to three per hour.

RSPB spokesman Chris Collett assured twitchers both starlings and house sparrows remained a common feature in Merseyside gardens.

But he also expressed concern over the severe drop in their numbers, adding: "The main message is these birds are common but nowhere near as common as they were 20-30 years ago.

"Both birds are red-listed, which means both are of high conservation concern."

The RSPB's Dr Richard Gregory, who heads up the society's bird monitoring section, said: "The starling is still a plentiful bird, but its numbers are falling alarmingly.

"Forty million starlings lost represent over 150 for every hour since the 1980s. This loss should be a wake-up call."

CAPTION(S):

CHATTERING: A starling PLENTIFUL: A huge flock of starlings over Runcorn bridge - but numbers are in decline, according to the RSPB's experts Picture: COLIN LANE
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 20, 2012
Words:333
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