Magpies and crows will be trapped and killed in the first cull of its kind to protect songbirds.
By Andy Bloxham
27 Jan 2011
The move could pave the way for birds of prey, including buzzards and sparrowhawks, to be culled in the same way.
Songbirds such as the yellowhammer, corn bunting and skylark – whose songs are for many a treasured part of the countryside – have been in decline for decades and it is hoped the
But the killing has provoked anger from other bird campaigners who believe other factors are responsible for the population drop.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says it is the removal of their traditional habitat and food sources that has done the damage.
Another group, Songbird Survival, backs the cull and says despite billions of pounds being paid to farmers to protect bird habitats and numbers, they are still dropping.
According to figures published last week by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs there was a fall in farmland bird numbers of 7 per cent between 2003 and 2008.
Populations of the main predators of songbirds have doubled in the past 30 years. Sparrowhawks, which kill an estimated 50 million songbirds a year, have increased by 152 per cent to 40,100 breeding pairs. Magpies, which raid nests, steal eggs and kill chicks, have increased by 98 per cent.
Nick Forde, a trustee of Songbird Survival who spoke to the Guardian newspaper, criticised the RSPB for defending its interests.
He said: “How many old ladies would want to leave their money to an organisation that goes round killing birds? There are a lot of vested interests who resist the idea of managing wildlife but if we don’t we are going to lose our biodiversity.”
An RSPB spokesman said: “There are dark forces at work here. There is a lot of rhetoric going on about all our songbirds being eaten by nasty predators.
We think these declines are driven by changing farming practices.”
The trial cull of crows and magpies will be carried out in sites in Hampshire, Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Herefordshire or the Scottish Borders.
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Direct Action Against All Forms of bloodsports