THE goldfinch, with its bright red face and yellow wing patch, is becoming an increasingly frequent visitor to our gardens because of human generosity with food.

Just 10 years ago, the bird was rated 15th most spotted in Scotland's gardens. But now, according to the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch in Scotland, it has soared to seventh position.

According to bird charity, the rise is probably due to the increasing number of people providing food such as nyger seed and sunflower hearts in gardens. Alternatively, milder winters could be helping the birds thrive.

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The RSPB said nearly 40,000 Scots took part in this year's birdwatch over January 25 and 26, helping to discover some interesting changes among our most recognisable garden birds.

House sparrows continued to occupy the top spot, while the chaffinch, starling, blackbird and blue tit all held on to their places rounding out the top five.

Wood pigeons moved up the league table by one place to number six, while coal tits fell from six to number 10.

Meanwhile, nuthatches continue to climb the table, hopping ahead nine places to number 31 this year. They have been gradually spreading north into Scotland over the past decade and are now spotted in the Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway and throughout the Central Belt and Argyll.

Starlings, however, are of real concern as they have experienced a long-term decline of 40% in Scotland between 1995 and 2011.

RSPB Scotland spokeswoman Leianna Padgett said it was fantastic to see goldfinches climb the rankings. She said: "They are adaptable birds and a great example of a species that can flourish with our help."

However, she added: "In the case of starlings, the causes of decline are not well understood and, because many starlings migrate from breeding grounds in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe to winter in the UK, then declines may reflect environmental changes elsewhere in Europe."