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Springwatch investigates: The corvid cull

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 17:16 UK time, Monday, 13 June 2011

Martin has been out mystery-busting, exploring the arguments for and against the corvid cull: plans to cull crows and magpies to test if they are contributing to a decline in songbird numbers.

In recent years many farmland and garden birds have suffered a decline whereas some corvids such as magpies and carrion crows have shown rapid increases in their populations.

But are these changes a coincidence? And what research has been done? Unfortunately there are some fundamental differences in opinion...

In January 2011 it was announced that the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) would conduct a large-scale trial corvid cull.

GWCT says that it is confident that corvid control is important in managing wild populations of game birds such as partridge, and that there is a need to control crow and magpie populations to look after these birds. However, it says that it doesn't know how important predation control might be in relation to other species.

The key funder of the trial cull is Songbird Survival, a UK-wide charity of ornithologists, conservationists, gardeners, farmers and members of the public who are concerned with the effects of increasing predation on songbird populations. It says that although the organisation is not stating that predation is the major factor affecting declining songbirds, it is an important factor that hasn't been looked into thoroughly.

In 2010 the BTO published an analysis of songbirds and their predators, pulling on information that has been collected over 40 years. This analysis looked at 30 species of songbird and seven predator species and found very few significant relationships between growth in predator populations and declines in songbird populations. The conclusion the BTO made was that magpies probably have little or no significant effect on the overall country-wide populations of our songbirds. It believes that declines are most likely the result of changes in land use and other habitat issues.

The RSPB states that magpies have no overall effect on garden bird populations. It says that corvids have lived alongside songbirds for millennia and cope with predation by having lots of youngsters so that some survive to adulthood. It argues that there is no evidence to support Songbird Survival's claims that corvids are responsible for songbird decline. For the RSPB it is changing farming techniques that is most likely to blame.

The RSPB does however cull magpies and crows at some of its reserves where it thinks that predation is a problem at a local level. In some cases, it says, bird populations have fallen to such an extent (due to other reasons) that predation can be the final straw. It is using these control measures to reduce the potential impact of the predators on these already vulnerable isolated populations.

The debate continues. What do you think?

Martin's film will be on Springwatch, 8pm BBC Two 14 June.


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  • Comment number 1.

    There is no justification for this cull as a way to protect songbirds. There has been no scientific evidence provided. This is wrong on so many levels.

  • Comment number 2.

    Over the last few years I have personally seen a decline in the number of song birds in my garden and surrounding area. However, i dont feel that this is due to predation by the massive amounts of Magpies that we have locally.
    For some of the species there is a distinct lack of nesting sights. In addition to this i have witnessed numerous dead birds in neighbouring gardens (I suspect they had eaten poisened insects) coupled with the fact that not many homes in the area supply feed for birds.
    And lets not forget that Corvids receive all of the bad press but they are not the only predators...

  • Comment number 3.

    To be honest magpies yes, Rooks yes, crows, i dont know. dont really see many of them around by me. Another factor you may want to throw into the mix is the increase of Buzzards, Kites and other birds of prey that were on the brink of extinction. Its nature at its cruellist to see a Buzzard fly into a tree full of Tits, Sparrows and Dunnocks and disappear time and again with a bird.
    Magpies are becomming so common now by me even the house martins wont nest here so there is evidence there that they are having an adverse effect... Why do we see more pigeons now though? Are they veracious raiders of nests also????

  • Comment number 4.

    This year I have had 3 pairs of nesting blue tits, 1 pair of great tits, 1 pair of house martins, 1 pair of blackbirds and 1 pair of magpies. The magpies have a go at getting too close to the house martins and then get mobbed relentlessly. The magpie has not had any success that I am aware of.

  • Comment number 5.

    And here we go again. Corvids have been around as long as songbirds so you could argue that, if it were true that corvids are to blame for any decline in songbirds (which I don't accept they are) then they are necessary to stop us from being over-run by songbirds. More to blame for any decline in songbirds are humans and their habits - cats (and yes, I am a cat owner myself), humans destroying songbirds' habitat, and modern farming methods. Yes, it breaks my heart when I see magpies and jackdaws raiding nests but it has always happened and it always well as long as us stupid humans don't interfere. Corvids are the most incredible birds - people who criticise them should take some time to study them. Hard as it can be, humans should not interfere. Corvids and songbirds can, and have, live alongside one another.

  • Comment number 6.

    Songbirds are losing their habitat, there is a distinct lack of nature corridors and sympathetic farming methods. Corvids are much more adaptable to modern living and so continue to thrive. It's a question of balance, the Corvids get a raw deal and continue to get the blame.
    Local councils should seriously consider looking into nature corridors when allowing planning permission to go through and stop all this tree and hedge cutting when it seems so unnecessary

  • Comment number 7.

    Personally I've found that birds only kill what they can eat (unlike cats!!!). In our back garden the magpies are now actively hunting fledglings as their young can eat this; until now though they have ignored baby birds; eggs however are another matter. Isn't it simply the balance that nature maintains? we have screwed this up totally and that is the main problem; Absolutely to quote Kate ???

  • Comment number 8.

    Don't cats kill about 5 million birds annually whereas Magpies or Sparrowhawks about 100,000? And we can't cull cats...

  • Comment number 9.

    As a avid bird watcher and someone who has had many nests in my garden the only predation of chicks I have witnessed is that off a magpie raiding two nests (Dunnock) over two seasons where the Magpie has returned to predate all the chicks within an hour or so. Facinating to observe but I do believe there is a relationship between this predation and some decline in song bird population. The frenzied chatter of these birds is occasionally due to the parent birds finding a nest and the obvious raid which soon follows.
    In the local park I have counted over 50 magpies in one early morning walk with the dogs, smaller song bird count "ziltch" with only mistle thrush and blackbirds being the only other bird species in the immediate locality.
    Mass culling may not be the answer but some control should be constantly available to balance the odds.

  • Comment number 10.

    I think this is an absolutely disgraceful way to research songbird decline. We humans are the biggest reason certain animals are in decline, and we have even pushed many animals to extinction. But yet we are always seem to pass the blame onto something else. We should pay more attention to what we are doing to the planet's wildlife, and stop thinking that we have the right to take away life when we see fit. This is nature's planet, not our's!

  • Comment number 11.

    No it shouldn't happen, I have Rooks, Jackdaws & magpies trying to get food from our feeders. They haven't predated any of the fledglings.
    However the non native domestic cat has predated a fledgling from our garden, why do we not cull them.
    Oh because they tend not to predate Game Birds. SongBird Survival should be named Game Bird Survival. Most of the people behind SongBird Survival Lord Coke et al are all linked with running Game estates, some have be linked to the illegal killing of Raptors.


    There was some interesting Blogs on the RSPB website, with some interesting links regarding the characters behind SongBird Survival. It strikes me as a smoke screen.

  • Comment number 12.

    I love how we automatically jump onto culling corvids and ignore the scientific evidence of farming techniques, urban residencies using insecticides, loss of habitat for new roads, new houses etc etc... I feel like we are banging our heads against a brick wall!

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    I have a question. (I love corvids - my favourite birds by the way) Recently my sister saw 5 crows pecking a flegling blackbird and they eventually killed it and took off its head but left the body. Why would they do this? They obviously didn't want it for food - could it have been territorial?
    I don't have a problem with it as I believe that all animals act out of instinct and it is stupid to put human qualities such as 'mean' or 'nasty' on them, but I would like to know why they might have done this?

  • Comment number 15.

    Humans should stop trying to anthropomorphise nature and decide what is best for the wildlife around them. If we didn't interfere so much, nature would do what it does best and find its' own balance. None of this evidence is proven, so we should leave well alone.

  • Comment number 16.

    I have bluetits nesting in my garden and have loads of songbirds plus magpies and crows and foxes. The birds that get taken are the odd baby starling by a vixen and the other losses are from the sparrowhawk who has taken a blackbird as well as baby starlings and sparrows. However, most babies are taken by cats. I say leave the crows and magpies alone, they are trying to feed their babies and I have watched them with their youngsters and they are great parents. Why do we want to kill everything? LEAVE THE MAGPIES AND CROWS ALONE, please.

  • Comment number 17.

    The removal of my previous comment tells me all I need to know.

  • Comment number 18.

    It may be true that corvids do contribute to the loss of song birds; and I have seen a magpie predate a blackbirds nest in my garden, but this has always happened and is not the overiding factor to their decline. As webcam and Springwatch viewers have seen, bad weather effects the insects that many songbirds feed on so causing all chicks to perish. Pesticides and lack of nest sites (plus hedge cutting during nesting season) all contribute. The worst predator of songbirds are cats! I know which has more of a place in nature between corvids and cats!

  • Comment number 19.

    Several news articles published since last year indicate that this cull is not about the songbirds. It is simply a clever ruse by gamekeepers who want a license to exterminate birds that they think threaten their income. Killing wild birds with chicks in the nest at this time of year is just mean-spirited. Exterminating wild animals in the midst of a global extinction is also counterintuitive. Public opinion will never tolerate this sort of wildlife management.

  • Comment number 20.

    @mickycoop please watch the film tomorrow before you judge. I removed your comment because it was potentially libellous. More than happy to reflect all opinion here providing it stays within house rules.

  • Comment number 21.

    A difficult one. I agree with so many of the comments posted so far and of course the corvids are not acting as the "bad guys" or "villians of the piece". I live in Germany and we have a huge population or Magpies building up in our small area of gardens. They are nesting each year and have again reared at least 3 chicks. Last year we counted over 20 magpies in the neighbour's birch tree, the noise is deafening! I have regularly witnessed them taking eggs and nestlings, mostly from blackbird's nests. This year, for the first time ever, we have not had a single baby blackbird in the garden or neighbouring 2 gardens adjoining our own. Maybe there is no link, I dont know - but I do wonder how many more magpies this relatively small area can tolerate if a balance is to be maintained. I dont like the idea of culling at all in truth - it probably isnt for us to interfere - but how can a balance be maintained? The songbirds do seem to be up against it right , left and centre! Very sad.

  • Comment number 22.

    I'm with the RSPB on this one. The science doesn't support a cull - sound familiar badger watchers? - but maybe in specific, extreme local circumstances it's justified.

    I'm hooked on a daily diary of a magpie chick called Woody to be found here (read with Firefox, IE doesn't work well on this site):


    Here's a persecuted magpie chick that has a loving adopted mother and many daily devotees. Woody's clever, full of character and keeps getting beaten up by crows. He needs a bit of protection, not more trouble.

    Bloomin' corvids eh?!

  • Comment number 23.

    I'm with the RSPB on this one. The science doesn't support a cull - sound familiar badger watchers? - but maybe in specific, extreme local circumstances it's justified.

    I'm hooked on a daily diary of a magpie chick called Woody to be found here (read with Firefox, IE doesn't work well on this site):


    Here's a persecuted magpie chick that has a loving adopted mother and many daily devotees. Woody's clever, full of character and keeps getting beaten up by crows. He needs a bit of protection, not more trouble.

    Bloomin' corvids eh?!

  • Comment number 24.

    For hundreds years song birds and corvids and other birds of prey have lived together with no problem, then man intervenes and everything goes up the creek. What is it about us that we think birds and animals can't get on with out us interfering. its usually because of us that birds and animals die out. So here we go again culling these beautiful intelligent birds instead at looking at what we're doing.

  • Comment number 25.

    Probably one of the main reasons for the increase in corvids is the amount of road kill available for them to eat, there are dead animals/birds everywhere. While we all drive about like maniacs with little thought to wildlife around us their food supply will remain constant and we will continue to loose our valuable wildlife.

  • Comment number 26.

    I agree with so much of what has already been said on here. To me, this smacks of us humans failing to accept responsibility for our actions and shifting the blame to other creatures. Corvids may impact songbird populations, but land-use/management have a greater impact. WE are the biggest threat...

  • Comment number 27.

    As I've mentioned before in another thread about birds of prey when there is a large population decline in a species an abundance of predators will not help their numbers to recover.
    Make no mistake about it, as you saw in last nights programme with the Jay, once any predatory animal has discovered a plentiful food source ,such as a nest of eggs or fledglings, they will take everything. This is instinctive behaviour. Hunting any prey species is very hard, so when an opportunity to gain easier pickings presents itself then they will repeat the behaviour, be it a road side kill or a bunch of nestlings waiting to be killed,without hesitation. They are incapable of making any moral judgements, thats human nature.
    It really is unsurprising that Corvids inparticular have come into suburban areas and made a very successful living here. They are intelligent, omnivorous,and willing to take advantage of any opportunity that is presented to them to improve their odds of survival.
    Just as songbirds have migrated from the countryside into our gardens because the living there is easy so have they. The issue was that for decades their numbers were suppressed by shooting and trapping and they instinctively avoided people.
    This is not the case now. Their numbers have risen significantly and they have been displaced from the countryside into our gardens by their sheer numbers,competition for territory and the attraction of easier food sources.
    And this is really the issue here. Within the surban environment it is easier to spot nesting birds as they cover significantly less territory more often and have more time to hunt, specifically because they are so well fed by us at bird tables.Unfortunatley this means they have more time on their hands and their instincts to keep hunting do not sit idyll by .And just as we know when a bird has nested in our gardens because of the limited areas available and because we visit them daily ,so do they. And they rarely forget it. And once discovered the fate of that nest is sealed.
    The decline in songbirds is due to a variety of enviromental pressures foremost of which are pressures of foodsource and suitable habitat. Undoubtedly those factors effect the breeding numbers more significantly than predation ,when those numbers are high.
    But when the breeding season is poor and there are fewer nests the statisical likelyhood is far higher that those nests will be predated because there are more predators around to carry out that behaviour on lesser nests. They thus have a disproptionate inpact on certai

  • Comment number 28.

    I know it’s a bit of a quantum leap but I blame John Prescott! He presided over the labour party’s so called ‘garden grab’ whereby our back gardens were classed as brown-field sites …so you would get lovely old cottages with big gardens being knocked down to cram multiple property’s with no garden just tarmacked drives for cars and defiantly no wildlife.

  • Comment number 29.

    As a Corvid Rescuer and campaigner against this cull, I do hope this programme highlights the facts. I have recued corvids many many years and they do suffer many losses as well due to many factors in the wild - why is this never questioned? Out of broods of up to five eggs often only 1-2 chicks survive, the mortality rate is high for these birds and often the young do not survive past their first year. We do not have the right to play god and decide what lives and what dies. It is always land owners and gamekeepers who want corvids to be culled despite the facts out there to provde they are not to blame, they are just being made as scapegoats because the human race is failing to admit the damage we are all doing to this planet. We all need to take action now to give back to nature what we have taken away, wildlife thrives in overgrown areas of land - not in concrete jungles most of us live in. Lets all work together before it is to late, before our beautiful corvids are persecuted for our mistakes.

  • Comment number 30.

    Interesting debate and one that will rage forever, I'm sure! But - we have been living beside our local park for 20 years and in that time have seen a significant increase in the magpie population and an equally significant decline in the small bird population. Also, in Northumberalnd at any rate, on managed estates, i.e. where landowners shoot crows, there has been a noticable increase in the return of ground-nesting birds, (not just grouse!) skylark, curlew and lapwing.

  • Comment number 31.

    I would also Like to add we live near a large rookery, we a large population of corvids and equally a large population of smaller songbirds, in fact this year all the birds have successfully raised young without persecution and the population of the smaller songbirds has risen dramatically. I have even had great tits nesting in two areas next to our nesting jackdaws. The birds have an equal amount of respect for each other, they need one another to survive.

  • Comment number 32.

    Corvids are incredibly intelligent animals. In 2009, Dr Christopher Bird at the University of Cambridge showed that rooks are capable of using tools (bending wire into hooks to pull up a small cardboard bucket containing a wax worm), and meta-tools (selecting a stone of the correct size in order to activate an aparatus which then supplied the tool needed to complete a task). He also demonstrated that rooks can raise the water level in a tube, by adding stones only of the right size and in the correct quantities, to extract a floating worm (demonstrating that there may be truth in the Aesop's Fable of the 'crow and the pitcher'). His research complements a body of work by Prof. Alex Kacelnik at Oxford, showing that New Caledonian Crows use tools in the wild and in the lab, and by Professor Nicky Clayton and Dr Nathan Emery, also at Cambridge, into the problem-solving abilities of rooks, magpies and jackdaws. You can see a feature all about corvid intelligence on the BBC website from 2009: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8023295.stm.

    When there seems to be so little scientific evidence that corvids are to blame for songbird decline, and so much evidence to suggest their intelligence, it is very sad that they are to be subject to a cull.

  • Comment number 33.

    A lot of these comments are to the effect that the role of corvids is 'unproven', yet they are also opposed to the idea of researching it. If we genuinely don't know the answer, why not do the research? The answer might go either way. If corvids are not important, it would be as well to know that.

  • Comment number 34.

    Lets face it the animals we should be looking at to cull is the domestic cat. They not only kill a huge amount of birds (and other animals) but they scare a great many away from feeders and all for fun. I know its an instinctive thing but you could say the same about serial killers but you wouldn't want one living next door. Cleanse our land of the horrid moggy and watch the song birds bounce back.

  • Comment number 35.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 36.

    I do not see a problem with a one-off cull of corvids for the reasons of gathering truly useful scientific data. If culling corvids in a defined area with the view to seeing whether it does or does not cause an increae in the population of songbirds can be conducted in rigorous and scientific fashion and resulting in useful data being collected that would help safeguard future populations of British songbirds, then one might justify such a cull and, depending on the results, culling as a practice. However, if such criteria were not met then the cull would be a senseless waste of time and birds.

  • Comment number 37.

    I think the predation problem depends on induvidual birds and areas, for example the crows that visit my bird feeders will only do so if there are no other birds on it, or if they do, with extreme trepidation as they appear to be frightened of them! The songbirds however will happily feed alongside the crows.
    As for magpies, i have witnessed several nest-raids aswell as the killing of adult birds including pigeons, but have found that putting out scraps of meat for them seems to deter them from going after other birds as they don't tend to waste energy when they can get an easy free meal!

  • Comment number 38.

    I am however going to watch the feature on Springwatch before i pass judgement, i'm sure it'll make everything clear :)

  • Comment number 39.

    SACK (Springwatch Against the Corvid Killing)

    Can’t Springwatch organise a petition against this abusive and pointless destruction of life?
    From the comments so far, I’m sure the majority of Springwatch viewers would happily sign.

  • Comment number 40.

    Controversial for me as a vegetarian who believes in the right to life for all creatures large and small, I feel that an exception needs to be made for the Magpies. Over the last few years they have invaded my garden and attacked the Robin, Blackbird and this year Blue tit nests. They have adapted too well to the change in circumstance and farmers used to keep such birds (Magpies and Carrion Crows) under control we need to do the same. They are getting that bold that they are now terrorizing cats as well as chasing the small birds off my feeder, these include: Bull Finches, Black Caps, Coal Tits, House Sparrows, Starlings, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Wrens, Dunnocks, Blackbirds, Thrushes and probably other's that I haven't seen yet. It is time to bring the Corvid bullies under control.

  • Comment number 41.

    I like the balanced nature of this debate but I am firmly on the side of reducing the numbers of these birds in favor of less competative species. My garden was full of song birds and the occasional corvid and to help them on a bit during the winter, I'd feed them all and enjoy their company. 3 years on, virutally all I get are Corvids and the occasional worried looking song bird. Everything I put down or in feeders is demolished by these aggresive and fecund birds. Just outside my village there are fields that are regulalry black with the numbers of jackdaws and hooded crows. We create un-natural environments by our very presence, nothing will stop that so to redress that balance, I think we have a duty to manage all populations. Do corvids taste nice??

  • Comment number 42.

    Oh Samantha, Corvids are not ‘bullies’. They are just little creatures trying to live and feed their families, the same as us. When you decide to feed the birds you can’t discriminate and decide who deserves to eat and who doesn’t. You either feed the birds, thus encouraging them to visit your garden, or you don’t.

    And please remember the definition of a bully: A person who is habitually cruel or overbearing, especially to smaller or weaker people.

  • Comment number 43.

    Lets face the facts, the plan to cull Corvids has not a thing to do with Songbird Conservation. It is about the commercial interests of the Game industry in this country, their concern is the shooting of game birds and they care not a jot about Songbirds. If they did they would not release 35 Million Pheasants in the British countryside each and every year, a predator and competitor of our British Songbirds, like the Corvids.

  • Comment number 44.

    As a lover of all birds and a rescuer of all our feathered friends I am dissapointed in some of the comments posted here. Corvids are not Bully's life is all about survival of the fittest, Corvids have evolved and developed to be able to survive in a manmade world, smaller songbirds are struggling because of the changes us humans have made, again I repeat Corvids are not responsible for the decline in smaller birds, they should have the same protection our other native species have, they are subjected to mass persecution all over the UK every year during breeding season which is cruel beyond words, having spent a lot of time in their presence the intelligence of these birds is unmeasurable. What will be next to cull after this cull has finished? They are already trying to push through a cull of Ravens and Birds of prey - this is just the beginning, where will it end?

  • Comment number 45.

    Yes, but now there is an imbalance for whatever reason and we need to address it before we start to see a decrease in songbird numbers that could take decades to recover from. We choose to interfer in all things natural so we need to face the consequences of that and in this case, thats a measured reduction in the population of some species. Sad but reality :(

  • Comment number 46.

    Wath a poppycock, as we saw the problem lies in the culling of Top Predators as Goshhawk, to control the lower ranks of the foodchain.

    Its typical Hunters speak, first they kill top predators till they are extinct and then they arbue someone should take their place, seflishness par-excelence...

    Just Help the active hunting Birds of prey like Goshhawk to get the Job done, if i'm not mistaken the Uhu has a taste for Corviods too, but he likes to plunder nests which is even better to control a "pest"

    But whoever calls a Jay or Magpie a pest should go to the optometrist they are such beautiful and clever birds :-)

    I'm in an ongoing battle with two Jay, who ruin my feeder, so i reapair wth thicker wire and nails, but the just take out the nails ...

  • Comment number 47.

    I don't understand why people have such a dislike for corvids - they are amazingly intelligent birds and a delight to watch. They even clean up our roads for us - they play an extremely important role in scavenging just as the vultures do in Africa. I even keep my chimney pots uncovered in order to give the jackdaws a place to bring up a family! It is our fault for the decline in song birds - pure and simple - we need to look at how our farmland and woodlands are managed - fields of baron wheat is not a place for songbirds and that is basically what my county of Hertfordshire is. It doesn't help when I see the council's huge hedge cutters coming along in the middle of May tidying up the hedges!!

  • Comment number 48.

    I think it is very sad that every time something is not going well humans always look to blame other creatures other than ourselves. We have the big debate about badgers and TB with many calling for a badger cull, and now we are trying to blame the demise of some birds on fellow creatures that they have lived along side them for many years. Nature can take care of itself, its us that cause the problems!

  • Comment number 49.

    Should we not be looking in to the Charitable status of these organisations that are so clearly motivated by commercial bigotry. Does the 'Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust' and so-called 'Songbird Survival' and their affiliates get tax benefits? The proposal is so clearly commercially motivated and obstinately perverse to ignore scientific evidence. These organisation should give up any pretence at they have 'conservation' or 'wildlife' concerns and admit they are all about commercial Game interests.

  • Comment number 50.

    I thought the increase in magpies and crows was because there is so much more road kill now than ever before. This means that they are able to survive during the winter months kore easily.

  • Comment number 51.

    Chris mentioned on Springwatch last night when the clip of the Jay taking the chicks that they only do it when they have chicks themselves to feed. This is the same for other corvids. It's a part of nature and I don't accept that corvids are the cause of the decline in songbirds. There are fewer hedgerows on farms than there were years ago, leading to fewer insects in those areas and there are also not many nesting sites for the songbirds. On a walk the other day i was looking to see if any trees had little holes in them where some birds would nest-there were none and you don't see many nestboxes around for them. there are other factors-there are far more cats around that will predate adult aswell as fledglings so that if an adult bird-or a pair are killed,the chicks will die.there are too many factors to put forward but at the end of the day i don't think corvids are to blame

  • Comment number 52.

    @ pauly there is a petition against this.the link is here:- http://www.thepetitionsite.com/8/stop-the-cull-of-crows-and-magpies/

    there is also a facebook group that you can join:-http://www.facebook.com/ShiftingTheOdds?sk=app_170192649677445#!/home.php?sk=group_190724494288712

  • Comment number 53.

    It should be pointed out that the most common bird in the UK is, pound for pound, the Pheasant. The Pheasant isn't a native UK species but Asian and would not be found in the UK if it were not for the fact that the commercial game industry released into the wild 35 Million Pheasant each and every year. All bird are predatory (even the small ones, being evolved from carnivorous Dinosaurs) the Pheasant is a double danger to UK species; not only does it compete for all the seeds, fruits and insects UK species live off but they are predators of small birds, their eggs and chicks, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Corvids are part of a natural UK environment and are not, nationally, a problem for other UK species. Pheasants, like; Grey Squirrels, Mink and Signal Crayfish, are commercial human introductions that have devastated the natural UK ecology. Lets accept the blame for the damage and start addressing the real problem and stop passing the buck to our natural, native neighbours.

  • Comment number 54.

    I would also like to point out that the Game & Wildlife Trust brought the Larsen Trap to the UK - They are to blame for the misuse of these traps that cause endless suffering to our native species, funny how they are the ones carrying out this cull on behalf of Songbird Survival

  • Comment number 55.

    What a stupid idea to cull several breeds of birds to stop the decline of others, even if you don't know whether they are responsible or not.

    What about the damage humans are wreaking on the natural world - would anyone suggest culling us because of what we've done to this planet generally and the bird population specifically?

    Go away and don't come back until you've stopped being so stupid and come up with a way to stop human beings destroying the natural world

  • Comment number 56.

    >@ pauly there is a petition against this.the link is here:- http://www.thepetitionsite.com/8/stop-the-cull-of-crows-and-magpies/

    Great! Thanks very much, Lisa.

  • Comment number 57.

    Controlling magpie numbers increases the songbird population - FACT!

    I can not believe there are so many people who are being blinded by their own emotional response to the idea of controlling a species. Magpies are raping our small bird/ songbird population. In urban areas particularly, around cities Magpie numbers have exploded. Just take a drive down the arterial motorway networks and count how many magpies there are on your journey. Even 10 years ago that number would be 1 - if you where lucky! Some days i count 20 or 30 magpies in a single journey! I can track the increase because i have been recording these numbers for that long.

    While i count the small songbirds population year on year crashing, i see Magpies on a daily occurrence raiding nests for eggs and young chicks to eat especially in the spring. I see woods with NO birds in while i see FLOCKS of magpies number 10 or 12 in number. And the RSPB tells me there isn't a problem!

    In my area in East London, yes a small amount of bird habitats or nesting opportunities have been lost to new builds and redevelopment sites but garden space, park land and new tree planting are constants. There will always be issues with feline predators but one thing is so very clear, the link between magpie numbers increasing and small birds decreasing - that is fact! My conclusions are not based around emotive, ill educated or speculative responses like many of the anti - cull camp and their supporters have written about in the published media and on blog sites, but from my own research and experience.

    For the last 7 years we have lived in a rectangular block of Victorian houses. The gardens back onto each other from all foursides, so effectively there is no access from the outside other than through your own property. The garden plots act as an oasis like green area in a highly developed part of Inner London. I saw immediately, the potential in attracting birds and building on their number we already had living in and visiting the gardens area. So along with several other house holders and only using conventional methods we have year on year increases the wild, small songbird population. This has only been achieved because of ONE thing and ONE thing alone.. We will NOT and have NOT tolerated magpies coming into or visiting the green space. As soon as we hear the cackling scrawls of magpies landing on our roofs ready to swoop down I/we run out and scare them off! This does sound a bit bonkers but we have seen a year on year increase of 25% in the number of nesting small birds. That we know of this year only one sparrow nest had an attempted Magpie raid which I disbanded with loud clapping. Yes the Corvid family of birds are very intelligent - cunning! So now even the magpies think better of stalking out nesting birds or attempt a raid. This spring has been fantastic, lots of new fledgling chicks learning to fly and again numbers up on last years, same feeding, same cat population - FEWER MAGPIES! Only this morning, 2 plump collar dove chicks on my terrace table having flown the nest. Year round we enjoy the wonderful song of blackbirds, wrens, sparrows, tits, robins and yes these are all pretty common in the wild but outside of our oasis it is baron of any small birds or song in the urban environment! How sad!

    Psychologically bird song triggers contentment, elation and even happiness among humans. It is an very real, immediate connection between man made synthetic sprall and nature in the countryside and it is an unconscious comfort to humans (once wild animals) that we are not alone in these unnatural concrete worlds.

    So also how sad it be be for visiting Olympic teams and tourists not to experience this essential part of British identity - our wild songbirds. They will just have to get used to cackling magpies, screaming crows and dirty one legged pigeons when they visit Tower Hamlets! Yes our borough has been hit hard by the lack of action.

    So come on Martin Harper (new Director of Conservation RSPB) and the Springwatch team come and visit our research site - its the only one in the UK apparently! I'll show you the beneficial effect of controlling Magpie numbers. I support the Magpie cull - you should too.

  • Comment number 58.

    I know that the collective name for crows is a murder, but yesterday afternoon there was an awful noise going on in my drive. and when I looked to see what was happening there were about seven or eight crows and one magpie all attacking one poor unfortunate crow. After I went out they seem to all disappear,but this morning as I went to my recycle bins I found the poor crow seeming unable to fly,called the RSPCA who promptly collected the bird. A little later two crows came to seemingly look for the crow calling etc. Had they come to finish him off? I know that crows and particularly magpies can be aggressive but have never witnessed anything like this before.Any idea what his crime might have been?

  • Comment number 59.

    In my opinion this is more about gamebirds & less about songbirds, anyone remember SST's spokesman Nick Forbes interview with a sunday newspaper when he couldn't identify several endangered songbirds correctly?! Yet he managed to identify a cock pheasant & even commented on its appearence.
    With studies by the RSPB & BTO which prove corvids are not guilty of songbird decline & habitat destruction & modern farming methods thought to be the real cause, why on earth would anyone want to carry out an 'experimental' cull? When you look into the background of Songbird Survival it all starts to make sense http://www.againstcorvidtraps.co.uk/songbird_survival/bloodsports & SST have hinted that if the cull of corvids does make a difference on songbird numbers (remove a predator & of course there will temporarily be an increase in prey, but also an increase of weak & sickly birds slowly dying of starvation as they are unable to find enough food as we have failed to look properly into the real reason for their decline) that they would like to cull other predatory species, their main target being birds of prey. Corvids of course are easy targets, people are always split into two camps, they either love them or hate them & when every year corvids are trapped & killed in horrific & barbaric ways people tend to turn a blind eye to it.
    Infact the use of the Larsen trap (which will be used during this cull) is still perfectly legal in this country where as it has been banned in many others, including the country in which it was invented as it is seen as inhumane, & quite rightly so. And we are a nation of animal lovers?!!!
    It is worth remembering that corvids are the most intelligent group of birds in the world, with scientists only just scratching the surface of what they are capable of, only the other year our humble rook was shown to be able to use tools, in much the same a the new caledonian crow.
    Is this how we treat other intelligent species? Complete madness!

  • Comment number 60.

    Been watching juvenile Tawny owls in the garden of an evening and last night we watched them being fed by the adult...She mainly focused on one of them as the other two didn't appear to be about after a while and the frequency of which she was hunting and feeding suggested that they weren't voles of mice she was catching...What else could she be feeding them?...Also could an owl nest in a thick set of conifers?,We saw her enter them a few times.

  • Comment number 61.

    The argument that corvids are contributing to the songbird decline is just ridiculous, it would be like saying that the song birds are contributing to the decine in some butterfly species. Why is this link never made.. Maybe because songbirds are not seen as pests by gamekeepers and farmers, and they are looking for any reason to cull them. I have a feeling that if humans we're removed from the equation the corvid and songbird populations would be in balance. I suggest we start looking at how we are contributing to the songbird decline.

  • Comment number 62.

    One of my fledgling bluetits obviously squeezed his way inside the fat ball feeder to get to the crumbs left at the bottom, then tried to get out from the bottom of the feeder where the bars narrow. Without the sense to exit up where he entered the poor creature strangled itself to death.

    Please, if you have this kind of feeder TAKE IT DOWN NOW. This all happened within minutes – I’d just replenished the seed feeder and had only gone back to the shed to get more fat balls and table top feed. By the time I came back it was too late. I’m devastated, so upset.

    Sorry, I have to paste the image of the feeder so you’ll be warned of its type, and I didn’t have the sense to take the body out before photographing, and I’ve already thrown the whole thing into the bottom of a dumpy bin (I can’t reach down to get it out).


  • Comment number 63.

    Why won't man take responsibility for what they are doing wrong instead of putting the blame on something else? It's OUR fault. WE have brought the songbird population down. We who are so greedy are taking away and ruining the habitat of many birds and many other animals. WE have brought many species of animals to extinction! Why must man put the blame on these innocent birds. Sure some birds need to hunt to eat. Is this a crime? We kill animals to eat! And that's okay? Humans are killing whales, Gorillas, Tigers, exotic birds etc... to the brink of extinction out of greediness and not just for food, but for sport, and for the great and might dollar! And not much is being done about it! Humans are killing and torturing animals around the world! Cats kill these songbirds out of pure enjoyment. And we don't do anything to stop THEM!
    Why must we interfere with Nature? Who are we to play G-d and make the decision that another animal must be sacrificed to take the blame for our mistakes? There is no proof that Crows, and Magpies, etc, are the cause for the songbird decline.
    We have thousands and thousands of songbirds where we live. The song is deafening in the mornings and early evenings. We also have Crows, Jackdaws, and Ravens by the hundreds sharing the area with them. We have for years! There has never been a decline in songbirds. In fact, it seems that we are getting more and more songbirds as we plant more and more trees in our area. We live out in a desert area where there is not much farming, and almost no habitat has been destroyed by man. Everything is the way it should be. Corvids are NOT bringing the songbird population here! But I'm sure if we start building up the area and start more farming and destroying the land, there will surely be a decline. Stop putting the blame on innocent birds. It's our own fault ALONE!

  • Comment number 64.

    Yes, corvids will take eggs and nestlings - I've seen it happen, and it is distressing. But also so do cats and other birds of prey (birds of prey having been another subject of culls in the past). One of the biggest reasons for loss of songbirds, especially the rarer ones such as nightingales, is loss of habitat, the cause of which is humankind. The RSPB and BTO have actually conducted studies to show that corvid predation on birds IS NOT the reason for their decline, so why can't that be accepted... they know what they're doing, after all! And my own experience bears it out: my garden has a healthy number of corvids - and songbirds. Nature is a balance, it balances itself unless the most dangerous animal on the planet (man) comes along and disturbs it - often by either destroying habitats or taking out a species from the local ecosystem (such as wolves - see the Yellowstone example). I, for one, am totally against the cull. It is not necessary or scientific and seems to be of benefit mostly to those with ulterior motives involving game birds.

  • Comment number 65.

    Well the truth of it is that someone counting Corvids as they drive along the motorway is not good enough scientific evidence to warrant a cull of these birds and especially not counting them in just one area. This seems like a medieval witch hunt and once they've been culled and its realised its not them thats the problem then who are we going to pick on then, certainly not ourselves.

  • Comment number 66.

    "thetruth" That's rich! He/she doesn't even know the meaning of the word "raping".

  • Comment number 67.

    i live out in the country(Devon) i gotta say they do shoot the crows because they become a nuisance,and over breed
    but ravens live out here too and they don't get culled does that mean the buzzards will be culled too cause theirs loads out here too
    but they don't do anything to harm the song birds,its starting to sound like another scapegoat...

  • Comment number 68.

    Corvids are doing what they are designed for, in taking chicks etc. I think the problem may be that they are contributing to keeping songbird numbers artificially low and that there are many other reasons for the decline in Their numbers. Surely there should be some extensive surveys and monitoring done before any type of experimental cull is undertaken. I beleive one reason for corvid numbers being high is the fact that there numbers aren't reduced by farmers shooting them as much as they used to.

  • Comment number 69.


    "Surely there should be some extensive surveys and monitoring done before any type of experimental cull is undertaken."

    The BTO Common Bird Census, and subsequently, Breeding Bird Survey data from the best part of 50 years show no statistically significant correlation between corvid national population changes and those of "songbirds". The same goes for raptors and their prey species.

  • Comment number 70.

    when i was out last year i herd a bird in a hedge i looked over to find a small magpie, i then looked up to the tree which i suspect it fell from and saw a big pigeon in the nest cooing away. what was going on ?

  • Comment number 71.

    21 different sources say the song bird decline is not due to magpies, that is enough for me. Leave them alone!

  • Comment number 72.

    I agree with the RSPB it is the changes in farming and garden management which effects songbird population. If you keep your eyes open you will see lots of dead songbirds in hedgerows and woodlands. Y/ou then see crows and magpie eating the carrion

  • Comment number 73.

    Its a simple case of double the number of Magpies, double the number of songbirds taken - it's not rocket science!!!

  • Comment number 74.

    I actually like magpies. When you look at them properly, they're beautiful and very charming to watch. I've had a family of magpies visiting my garden for 2 years since I moved into my current flat and I've become very fond of them. Also, as well as the magpies, there's plenty of little birds including blue tits, coal tits, sparrows and starlings and they don't seem to mind the presence of magpies.

    I'm of the way of thinking that it's nature and man should NEVER meddle with it. Nature's savage and not always pretty but it's how it is. BTW, magpies are not themselves immune to attack, I saw a magpie being pecked to death at my work by a crow outside my work, again not pretty! At the end of the day, man does more damage to wildlife and magpie haters are just trying to conceal their guilt.

    Finally, I'm a wee bit superstitious about magpies and am always glad when I see two or more. I salute single magpies not because I'm afraid of bad luck but in appreciation of a fantastic bird!

  • Comment number 75.

    And there you have it. Despite the total non-existence of any evidence to support their ridiculous claims. The nitwits of SS still persist in their obscene quest.

  • Comment number 76.

    Lay of the Corvids I say!!

  • Comment number 77.

    what right do we have to cull any species, be it for good or bad.
    we are part of the natural order of things, that does not give us a licence to kill animals that we do not like.
    what would we feel like if another species started to kill off humans because it thought that we are too numerous?
    man thinks that just because we have a big brain then we should be in charge of all things.
    there are a few more animals on this earth that have more intelligence than man, its just that we cannot understand the way that they think or vocalise meanings.

  • Comment number 78.

    Farming malpractice, domestic cats, road building across the countryside, house building in the green belt, human activity is the problem. Leave the corvids alone!

  • Comment number 79.

    Please mention the glasyn ospreys just down the road from you. We have been visiting them for the past 4 years.

  • Comment number 80.

    The persecution of corvids is mainly driven by those people who want to protect shooting interests. Many prominent people behind organisations such as 'save our songbirds' are actually the owners of shooting estates (eg viscount coke).

    For many they are a convenient scapegoat - it is easier to cull some birds (indeed many people enjoy killing our wildlife) rather than try to convince farmers to change their farming practices.

    Surprised and disappointed that none of the Springwatch team spoke out about the cruelty of corvid traps.

  • Comment number 81.

    why cull the magpies why not the cats they cause more deaths than anything else and they dont need birds to live

  • Comment number 82.

    Magpie predation - they could be bright enough to have 'fashions'. Last year, we kept finding headless starling fledglings in the garden. Eventually we saw magpies catching them, pulling off the heads and flying off with them!

    No excutions this year at all.

    John, Lancaster.

  • Comment number 83.

    I did not your bit on the cull of magpies. Bang out of order to blame 1 bird. Chris is RIGHT. Magpies been a scapegoat. I best not see anyone killing a magpie or any living thing. thankyou awesome show.

  • Comment number 84.

    Leave the corvids alone. What about domestic cats and dogs?! No question that where we are they cause more problems for nesting songbirds than corvids.

  • Comment number 85.

    Instead of blaming Corvids, we need to focus on habitat destruction - the real reason songbirds are disappearing from our country.

  • Comment number 86.

    If it is ok to cull the magpies and other corvids is it ok to 'cull' the cat that regularly sits on top of my bird box regardless of the various obstacles that i put in its way, they get more elaborate each year, each year the bluetits come back and every year the cat manages to destroy the nest and scare the birds away. I suspect millions of people will think i'm a dreadful person but i would happily 'bin' that cat!

  • Comment number 87.

    I reckon one of the primary reasons for the increase in the number of Corvids is the (rather relevant to this week's Springwatch) is the way in which we as humans dispose of our household waste. Corvids can sit and pick apart a bin bag and eat whatever is inside, but many Song birds won't do that, they need smaller prey items, caterpillars etc.
    Better management of how we dispose of household waste (by composting & recycling etc.) will make a huge difference.
    I also feel that the usage of fences in gardens & urban areas is a contributing factor. As is removing flowers and grass from Gardens, less wildlife corridors for Saongbirds & less natural food items for so many species. The entire food chain is being negatively affected and those animals who will scavengee (Foxes & Corvids) will come out on top.

  • Comment number 88.

    I live in an area where we have all the UK corvids in abundance. Despite this we have large numbers of song birds and large numbers of newly fledged young. In fact the biggest threat to song birds in this area is the National Trust clearing areas of gorse etc because they think it might provide a good feeding area for Choughs.

  • Comment number 89.

    My elderly father will be very glad at long last that this debate is at least out there. The vast increase in Magpies numbers during his 87 years is his soap box subject. Even if habitat and farming methods account for the majority of songbird decline. Magpies have increased in numbers in our suburban gardens too, we have lots of them and they terrorise the songbirds. The blackbirds alarm calls are far more frequent because of them than the local cats.

  • Comment number 90.

    I am concerned about the numbers of magpies. However, something, which no-one dares discuss, is the relationship between CATS and songbirds. When I was a student, I witnessed the landlady's cat take out the whole of the dawn chorus in one year alone!! - not only did the cat take a young thrush, but then it caught the adults. There are so many cats in the UK (much as I like them) that surely this has to be significant?

  • Comment number 91.

    There certainly is a real explosion of magpies in my area of North Edinburgh; on a recent walk I counted 17 magpies in one group, quite an amazing sight to see. Whether they are responsible for the decline in song birds is unproven but one thing is certain is magpies have certainly adapted well to environmental changes. I'm not in favour of a cull personally I think the balance of nature will correct itself in time.

  • Comment number 92.

    Hi, I live in Thanet and the bird that I am intersted in is the paraket.
    Does this have any adverse effects on small birds and more so
    woodpecker nest sites as they seem to be using woodpecker holes for nest?

  • Comment number 93.

    corvids and squirrels do play a part in songbird decline. I have listened to expert opinions on springwatch that focus on a natural balance of species but what they have failed to recognise is that persecution of apex predators like raptors since the second world war plus DDT has reduced the numbers of predators for corvids and squirrels, add this to the new pc thinking about controlling pests and you have an unbalance. gamekeepers thankfully no longer kill birds of prey but neither are they killing enough corvids. Since the dawn of time we have changed the natural balance of species to such a degree that we are now comited to responsible management of ALL species that reside in the UK.

  • Comment number 94.

    All about protecting songbirds? People forget that corvids are songbirds too. It's the reputation of the birds that gets them killed. Why just the magpies? Because they eat the chicks when we see them: by day. Other birds don't get killed as much, because they attack the chicks in the evening or at night when we don't see them. The birds are just doing what they must to survive, and for that they get killed. Only because most people favor the the smaller, more colourful songbirds. I think it's ridiculous.

  • Comment number 95.

    looking at all that people agreed with all round without any dispute then its as follows.
    Corvids predate songbird eggs and chicks killing strong and weak alike.
    the numbers of corvids has doubled in the last few years.
    double the number of predators mean more songbirds are being killed, its a simple mathematical fact.

    This does not mean that the corvids are responsible for the decline in numbers but they must have contributed to it purely down to their increase in numbers as to cats make them wear a bell!

  • Comment number 96.

    We have lived in South Oxfordshire for the last 13 years and have enjoyed watching "our" Little Owls produce 4 - 6 chicks each year. Very very noisy little birds that seem to be active 24/7 at this time of year. Last year a pair of magpies systematically decimated the chicks over a period of 2 weeks, returning every 3 -4 days to pick off yet another one or two chicks. It was one hell of a racket and to hear the parents distress calls was quite upsetting. The upshot of it is - no sign Little Owls what so ever this year- such a shame. I have witnessed other nests being raided by them including Wren (also sadly not to be heard this spring) and Robins. I think that there are too many of them compared to other garden and woodland species.

  • Comment number 97.

    I agree with a lot of the posts on here, that cats do so much more damage than Magpies and other Corvids. I have had a resident Magpie in my garden for the last 3 years since her parent brought her into the garden as a youngster. Last year she had a chick of her own.
    I have never seen her with a nestling or an egg (this doesn't mean I am stupid enough to think this may not occur) but as she spends so much time in the garden you would think I might have seen this if it happened regularly. She digs in the lawn (I saw her dig up a huge, possibly cockchafer, grub the other day) eats a lot of insects, and attacks the fatballs. I have more juvenile songbirds/garden birds, and adults, of all kinds this year than I have had for a few years, and the Magpie, and often her mate, is here every day.
    I love to watch them, but hate the cats that come in and chase them off when I can.
    I know this is not scientific evidence (a bit like saying that the earth isn't warming because we had a bad winter), but how can Corvids be blamed when cats are not even mentioned?

  • Comment number 98.

    The proposed Corvid cull has little to do with protecting songbirds and quite a lot to do with protecting the profits of the hunting classes. Landowners are destroying habitat, local councils are allowing habitat to be destroyed for housing and let us not forget the people who end up living in those houses - they pour gravel and concrete everywhere and then send their three pet cats outside to do what cats do.

    The domestic cat is a far more effective predator of small birds than any Corvid.

    "Songbird Survival" should be wholly ashamed of themselves.

  • Comment number 99.

    I believe that the destruction of their natural habitat is the major reason that our song birds are in decline ,there is a half acre paddock next door to me that has been left to grow naturally and is also full of thistles and seeding grass it is full of gold finches and green finches ,as well as chaffinches which to me indicates that if there is an abundance of food and natural nest sites then there should be no reason for there decline .
    magpies have been living along side with these birds for hundreds of years and i think the culling of them is totally unjust .
    chris coupland

  • Comment number 100.

    After watching the piece about Magpies and the I am shocked and horrified that a man with a doctorate to his name is condoning and actively taking part in culling a species of bird that is native to this land. If this was the grey squirrel or a non native animal that was thought to be threatening our native wildlife then there might be some weight toward redressing the balance. But even then I don't advocate human beings actively taking part in balancing nature. Anyone who says they are a bird lover must learn to appreciate nature doing what it does. It's only man that ruins all things natural.


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