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Keeping abreast of robin numbers.

Byline: By Hannah Davies

Robin redbreast is disappearing from the North East's gardens in worrying numbers.

The popular bird, a staple image on Christmas cards, is slowly dropping down the lists of common garden birds and this year is no longer in the top 10.

Two years ago it was the eighth most common garden bird in Tyne and Wear but last year it dropped down to 10th.

David Hirst of the RSPB North East said: "Everyone loves the robin and people just take it for granted they will appear on their bird table, but sadly numbers are declining.

"People can do quite a bit to encourage birds, though, especially at this time of year. Putting food out for them is very important.

"Planting plants and trees to attract them can also be good as too tidy gardens don't encourage the right kind of environment.

"Nestboxes are also a way in which people can help wild birds."

The RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch is taking place this Saturday and Sunday, with the aim of discovering how local populations of garden birds are faring.

It is hoped around half a million armchair birdwatchers from across the UK will give an hour of their time to take part in the survey.

David said: "This is an important annual survey as the results will give us valuable information and an idea of winter bird populations.

"In some parts of the country, the numbers of house sparrows and starlings have been in freefall in recent years and they are now rare visitors to gardens.

"In contrast, birds such as nuthatches, long-tailed tits and collared doves are spreading into new areas and their numbers seem to be on the up. We need to know more about these surprising regional variations."

The most common bird in the North East is the starling, followed by the house sparrow, blackbird, blue tit and collared dove. At number six is the greenfinch, followed by the magpie, great tit, dunnock and then the robin.

Big Garden Birdwatch details are available from rspb.org.uk/birdwatch or (08701) 222 791.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 28, 2005
Words:348
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