Songbird Survival charity’s £88,000 funding to cull Crows and Magpies

£88,000 in funding provided by the Songbird Survival charity will help Scientists undertake a  cull of crows and magpies to find out whether they are wiping out the nation’s songbirds. A dramatic decline in farm and woodland birds over the past 50 years may be  linked, the charity claims, to rising numbers of avian predators. If the study uncovers a link, it could lead to a much wider cull extending to protected species such as sparrowhawks and buzzards.

Such a proposal appears somewhat perverse, in other European countries like Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy and France where raptor population are far higher than in the UK, songbird populations have suffered little or no ill-effects resulting from raptor predation on their numbers. Can this decline be due in part to less intensive agricultural practices in many of these rural country’s? Perhaps if raptors that predate on crows and magpies, for example the Goshawk, were not themselves already being culled illegally in such high numbers to conserve game stocks, then the expansion of corvids in our countryside could be controlled naturally!

As one comment recently submitted to Raptor Politics has pointed out, many members of the shooting fraternity including shooting estate owners  are supporters and members of the Songbird Survival charity for all too obvious reasons. The Queen herself provided funding to this group following the alleged shooting of two hen harriers on the Sandringham estate in which her nephew Price Harry was linked.

Just in case anyone has any doubt regarding the hidden agenda behind the establishment of “Songbird Survival”  and its real aims, the following details provided by Dr Mark Avery on his Blog today will enlighten you: The Chair of Songbird Survival is Lord Coke.  Lord Coke hails from Holkham Hall.  The head gamekeeper at Holkham Hall was charged with several offences, including some under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, last week.  This has led to some interesting comments in some places (see here for example).  Lord Coke’s father, the Earl of Leicester, is not the biggest fan of birds of prey, nor indeed of the RSPB.

BTO research being ignored by Song Bird Survival.

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42 comments to Songbird Survival charity’s £88,000 funding to cull Crows and Magpies

  • I am not a fan of Magpies and feel they do have an effect on breeding songbirds. As I mention in this blogpost.

    However I think that in one of the trial areas rather than kill the magpie they should remove all magpie nests and totally disrupt their breeding and see what effect it has on the songbird population.

    I also feel that in areas where there is a high density of magpies the density should be reduced.

    • admin

      One predator above all others, the domestic cat, of which there are an estimated eight million in the UK, kill more song birds than all the other predators like the sparrow hawk and kestrel put together. Another interesting thought, why is it that specific song birds, for example the song-thrush has declined drastically over the last 20 – 30 years compared to other song bird species. Raptors like the sparrow hawk are non selective in their choice of song birds, therefore one would expect the decline if due to raptor predation to be consistent in all species of song birds.

  • John Miles

    When you destroy Crow and Magpie nests you also destroy Hobby, Kestrel, Merlin , Long eared Owl and Tawny Owl which use these nests to nest in. When you remove Crow ans Magpie you take away the food from Buzzard, Goshawk, Golden Eagle and Eagle Owl. All species have defence mechanism from predators. Take away the predator and that system breaks down meaning when that species finally comes up against a predator it is more likely to be predated than one which was born with predators around it. The best example comes from released game birds like Pheasants.

  • Mike Price

    Didn’t they commission a BTO report that proved that these birds were not responsible for the declines?

  • Mike there is evidence from various studies in Europe and in UK (ie at Loddington ) that in areas where predator density is high they have a drastic effect on nesting songbirds. However with predator control habitat creation is also needed. Predator control may help restore breeding numbers of some species initially, the influence is not maintained when higher songbird numbers are established.

    There is also the problem when you remove a meso predator are you providing the space for an even more efficient predator to take it’s place.

  • Mike Price

    very interesting thanks Craig.

  • kelvin thomas

    Do you not think that as quoted “in other European countries like Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy and France where raptor population are far higher than in the UK, songbird populations have suffered little or no ill-effects resulting from raptor predation on their numbers. Can this decline be due in part to less intensive agricultural practices in many of these rural countries?” Interesting also that Songbird Survival is connected to the Countryside Alliance too!! Kill everything for fun!

  • Coop

    The usual twisting of scientific fact and downright lies from the SS charlatans. Their moronic scapegoating would have made the original bearers of these initials proud!

  • Andy

    Songbird Survival really need to be exposed for what they are. Its sickening to hear them on radio programmes mentioned as a “bird charity” or a “conservation organisation” when it is clear that they are simply a group whose sole purpose is to promote the eradication of birds of prey.

    I am aware that they are bankrolled by very influential people, but surely in 21st century Britain we can’t just stand by and accept this?

  • Paul Risley

    Sparrowhawks up 152% since 1975, in 1975 sparrowhawks had only just started to recover from pesticides, they were rare or absent from most of England. Does that mean now there’s at least 152 or slightly more? In 1977 I found my first Spar nest in my local woodland, fascinated by these birds I searched and read every article I could find on them. Wildlife mags, falconry mags, shooting mags, cage and aviary mags the lot. I soon discovered from magazines like shooting times that these birds would soon kill every other bird in the vicinity, it was only a matter of time and that something had to be done about them, “sound familiar” 30 odd years on and I’m still watching Spars breeding locally, I’m still seeing the same songbirds as I saw back then and I’m still seeing the same rubbish written. Songbird Survival had an article on its website about Spars and great tits in Witham Woods, it had gone to great lengths to discredit a previous study done there, what it had totally missed out on though is the fact that at the start of the study there were spars and Great tits, at the end of the study there were Spars and Great Tits and I’ll lay money down now that there are still Spars and Great tits there today.

  • Coop

    Absolutely Andy and Paul! The conservation community must declare outright war on this disgusting organisation.

  • paul williams

    England is becoming the new Malta.

  • Coop

    I’ve suggested several times before that The RSPB should ditch the royal charter. The fact that the queen has donated to the SS scumbags adds weight to my argument.

    • Skydancer

      I could not agree more – its a total disgrace allowing someone who supports this organisation to remain head of the RSPB.

  • This organisation have only one aim, the destuction of all raptors, they are fully aware that raptors are not responsible for the decline in songbird populations but persist in repeating their hate fuelled statements to anyone who will listen.

    I attended a show a few years back and this organisation also had a stand there not far from me, one of their people came into my tent and started, even interrupting me whilst I was talking to someone about nest boxes for owls, he was asked to remove himself from my tent as I was into conservation and he came over as being somewhat of a thug who’s hatred for birds of prey was very obvious, thank goodness that most of the people I spoke to that day were disgusted by their attitude and walked away from them.

    I agree, it is disgraceful that the Queen of this country should have any involvement with this group and remain head of the RSPB, they are trying to protect birds of prey, Songbird Survival are hell bent on exterminating them, perhaps it is time someone put Her Majesty in the picture, Mark Avery is leaving the RSPB, perhaps as a parting gesture he should be the one to do it.

    Predators of any kind only do well if their is an abundance of prey for them, we all know that, Songbird Survival should start looking into the two legged human species before blaming raptors for everything, but then, humans can answer back and raptors can’t.

    I would like to know how many pigeon fanciers there are in the Songbird Survival group.

    Perhaps the Queen would like to donate some money to small groups of people like myself who donate their lives to the rescue and conservation of our native owl and bird of prey populations doing so in a quiet and caring way and struggling to make ends meet all because WE CARE.

  • I was hoping that someone would mention the domestic cat. They are estimated to kill 75 million birds per year, many of which are protected species.

    If the RSPB or SS were really interested in protecting birds, then both of these organizations would be mounting massive campaigns, in order to get the government to implement legal contols over cats.
    Any person or group whom claim to be bird lovers, and whom ignore the massive damage done to wildlife by cats, is beyond contempt, and deserves no support, royal or otherwise.

  • TerryPickford

    Doug, see second comment already posted by Admin relating to the damage caused by cats to songbirds in this countty

    • Hi Terry, i read the comment by Admin, i’m now waiting for RSPB, and SS, to explain their silence about the wasteful killing of protected birds by domestic cats.

      • TerryPickford

        Hi Doug, spoke to a keeper I know about the silence of the RSPB and others on this subject, he thinks if groups like the RSPB in particular say anything about the harm cats really do to songbirds, then their members will not be best pleased.

  • One predator above all others, the domestic cat, of which there are an estimated eight million in the UK, kill more song birds than all the other predators like the sparrow hawk and kestrel put together.

    You say they (cats) kill 40 million songbirds a year?

    Sparrowhawks kill twice that number every year. Do some maths:

    41,000 breeding pairs, kill at least 6 songBill Coxbirds a day (say 240,000 kills a day) every day, x 365 = 87,600,000 dead songbirds. Some of us can count.

  • Dave

    Bill why on earth would a sparrowhawk kill 6 song birds a day?

  • Coop

    I propose an organisation called “Midge Survival” as a single Pippistrelle can munch its way through 3000 of these poor little thing every night! SAVE OUR MIDGES; KILL A BAT TODAY!
    Can’t these thickies understand that it’s irrelevant how many “songBill Coxbirds” are taken every year by Sparrowhawks (or any other natural predator for that matter)?
    An average six year old could work out that from each breeding attempt (adults and young), of any organism, only two individuals are required to survive to breed the following year for the population to remain stable. All the rest are doomed surplus. And, in the absence of predators, will succumb to other mortality agents.
    The fact remains that predator-prey relationships have existed for millions of years. Under the warped SS logic, all prey species would have been driven to extinction before Homo sapiens even evolved! Then, I suppose, the predators would have eaten each other until only one remained; which was forced to eat itsself!
    To any other loonies who may post here: Do a bit of research into what “K” and “R” rated species are. You might just learn something.

  • There are perhaps a few factors at play with this conundrum.
    There has been a decline in many, but certainly not all, songbirds particularly those associated with open farmland and woodland over the last 50 – 60 years. Some species such as Willow Tit and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker have suffered serious declines that are very unlikely to be related to magpie/BoP predation.

    There has been an increase in the number of magpies (and other corvids and BoP) over the same period.
    Those two facts are not necessarily linked. At the same time as agricultural intensification and cessation of woodland management there has also been some reduction, particularly in the lowlands, in the amount of keepering artificially reducing the magpie numbers. In that time magpies have also moved in to suburban areas and become much more noticeable to the general public who are now witnessing their nest robbing activities which they find distressing. Distressing it may be but it mostly happens while the magpies are feeding their own young, once that is over the song birds generally are able to raise a second, sometimes even a third brood, easily compensating for the losses of magpies, other predators and weather conditions over the winter. After all for a population to remain stable only two young are needed to replace the parents. What agricultural intensification and the move towards modern gardens and gardening in the suburbs has done is over-simplified the structure of the habitats available to many passerines thus reducing their food supply, reducing the number of nest sites and making the available nest sites more vulnerable to predation so if adult birds aren’t producing enough young to replace themselves numbers will fall.

    There are only 650000 pairs of magpies (RSPB website) probably amounting to a total UK population of around 2.5 million, or about a quarter of the number of domestic cats in the UK, many (but not all) of which cause an additional and unnecessary problem for wildlife (mammals reptiles and amphibians as well as birds) all year round not just for a few weeks. Given adequate habitat with sufficient resources all prey species have strategies and adaptations to maintain their populations given the ‘expected’ amount of predation. Improvements in the quality of their habitats are the key to passerine survival not the removal of predators, or we have to learn to live with stable but reduced populations of those species.

    It has to be borne in mind too that Collared Doves and Woodpigeons both species who are targeted by several species of raptors and whose nests are regularly raided by corvids have increased substantially at the same time as the song birds have declined, Songbird Survival should ask themselves why? It’s down to those same changes in habitat suiting them so despite the losses to all predators/weather etc they can produce more than two young per pair. Blackbirds have only shown a slight decline, with some recent recovery whereas Robins and Dunnocks which occupy similar habitat have had contrasting fortunes, Robins, often seen more in the open and as such perhaps more vulnerable to BoP predation have increased while the more secretive Dunnock, rarely found in the open far from dense cover, has had a significant decline. Not quite QED but certainly BoP or magpies can’t be implicated in the differing fortunes of these three species. (Population trends taken from BTO website)

    Perhaps the biggest threat to song birds in the wider countryside is the over-eager use of the hedgerow flail which removes the cover in which song birds can avoid the attentions of BoP/magpies, provides good winter berry feeding opportunities, provides shelter from inclement weather and provides safe nesting sites with abundant invertebrate food. Doesn’t help bees or butterflies either when pollen & nectar sources are destroyed for no reason other than ‘tidyness’.

    One thing that regularly puzzles me with the continuing raptor persecution is where are these people getting the banned pesticides/poisons from, did they stockpile them before the ban or are they freely available on the web? Particularly noticeable was the use of the poison in Germany you recently reported on which had been banned there for over 20 years!



    • Admin

      This comment has been well researched and put togther supported with logic, well done that man/lady, we look forward to hearing from you again. Thank You.

  • Coop

    I second that completely. Unfortunately, SS and the countryside liars aren’t interested in facts, only their own deceitful falsehoods.


    Aren’t some humans a wonderful creation. Doesn’t it make you laugh how the bottom line to all of this is that its Humans who do all the damage, but we don’t like to pour scorn on ourselves oh no lets get a hidden agenda create an organisation to cloak it with and go to town on the things that actually know how to balance things out and look after themselves, after all they’ve been doing it for millenia.

    The guys running these organisations need to actually get a grip of what the natural world is all about.

    (Don’t mean to preach to the preachers but this really gets my goat)

  • rod liddle

    If you’re interested I’ve got a news story about this in the Sunday Times today and a video piece at the online section which includes an interview with a bloke from SongBird Survival. Keep up the good work etc……..

  • rod liddle

    Hi – the problem is it’s behind a paywall and I’m having trouble posting the link; but it’s in the news section of the sunday times and I’ve done a smaller piece on the comment page about James Paice.

  • paul williams

    An eradication of Avian Wildlife by the SS.

  • Anna M

    Hi Rod – I love the ambush on Songbird trustee. Why didn’t you give him a chance to speak? I’d have been interested to hear what he said but all I could hear was your blabbering on over any breath he tried to take to respond. Do you have the rest of the video you must have edited out – I am sure he actually said SOMETHING??? I note that all the other people interviewed were given a chance to speak.
    link to ‘interview':

  • rod liddle

    hello – here’s the link:

    Anna – I did. But he really didn’t say much. I think it was edited to make me look feisty, which is an unnatural state. I’ll try to see if the whole interview could be made available.

    And I wasn’t blabbering, I was picking up his inconsistencies in an acute and forensic manner (ahem).

  • Anna M

    Acute and Forensic? OK, I will concede, you are a good at your job! :)
    I felt sorry for the poor man though – I’ve read his comments online with interest and would have liked to have heard him in the flesh, if he had got a chance!
    I hope you can make the whole interview available – how long is it?

  • rod liddle

    A good twenty minutes. I’ll ask about it.

  • Hilary Law

    We have a small garden that backs onto a school with a huge tree at the end of our garden. There is a magpie nest in it and all we hear now is the constant NOISE these birds make. It was only 3 or 4 years ago that we could sit in our garden and enjoy the sound of many different birds and it was lovely but not anymore just the dreadfull magpies. So if anyone wants any target practice my garden and I welcome you.

  • Coop

    This is surely a wind-up. Even the SS idiots haven’t used this one as an excuse for their twisted ideas! If not, this shows just how shallow, selfish, and plain pig ignorant some people are. These are just the sort of morons who are targeted by the SS.

  • Paul Risley

    I have seen similar sorts of messages posted in Cage and Aviary Magazine when they first started out and it would probably win letter of the week in Shooting Times at the moment. That rag is so anti raptor and what they write is complete garbage. They ran an article about a month ago which basically said Red Squirrels on the Isle of Wight were dying out and Buzzards were to blame, The basis of their in depth report on this came from a woman who had seen two taken in her garden by a buzzard and another woman from a squirrel rescue centre who gave the grim prediction, cutting edge journalism from a magazine whose regular contributors Robin Page and Alasdair Mitchell have both contributed to Songbird Survivals latest newsletters. Comments from Page in recent times include gems such as Marsh Harriers are eating all the Avocet chicks (hard to understand how Avocets are increasing year on year then?) and Sparrowhawks find Lapwings easy targets (as Lapwings are edible its strange not to find any chapters on this in any old falconry books as it would have been an easy way of securing food!). This kind of journalism is responsible for a lot of what is happening in our countryside today.

  • Coop

    Indeed Paul.

    I was given a page from the Daily Moseley (AKA The Sun, with big words) a couple of weeks back, in which the nitwit Page, masquerading as a conservationist, poured out his usual cretinous nonsense. In the true, selective traditions of this rag, the footnote stated that Page does not hunt or shoot, and has been an RSPB member for x years. Well whoopie ***kin doo! That makes him an expert does it? Of course, they didn’t mention that page is a supporter of the Countryside Areliars. But then they wouldn’t, would they?

  • Paul Risley

    Coop, I’ve seen that footnote too, he seems to use it as a kind of disclaimer that his views aren’t biased. I regularly pick up and have a quick browse through Shooting Times while out shopping to see what rubbish they’ve come up with. I know I shouldn’t as I only end up getting wound up, but its like driving past a motor accident you just have to look. One of the worst I saw was by Simon Lester now head keeper at Langholme. He did an article in the mid nineties about an incident in the South Wales/Herefordshire border area involving a Goshawk that had killed a large amount of pheasant poults without eating them. He gave his opinion that he believed Goshawks were similar to foxes in that in confined spaces they would carry on and kill everything that moved near to them. Having friends into Falconry at the time who flew Goshawks and having seen them first hand on a kill and the reluctance to release it for anything else I found his opinion strange to say the least. I passed the article on to the Guys who flew the Goshawks who got back to me a few weeks later after contacting colleagues in the Welsh Hawking Club Southern region, they confirmed the story was correct but also added the Goshawk had been found dead and a subsequent autopsy showed it had died of Trichomoniasis. The symptoms of this infection is that the bird gets legions in its throat and cant swallow, it doesn’t lose the will to hunt but once it gets its prey it cant eat and basically just plucks half heartedly at its unfortunate victim until it eventually starves itself unless treated, I once saw this in a friends captive Peregrine. I later found out Trichomoniasis at the time was particularly prevalent in South Wales and was deemed the reason behind the slow dispersal of Goshawks into Devon and Cornwall (documented). Sorry for waffling on but imagine Gamekeepers and shooting lads up and down the country reading his apparentlty educated “opinion” who had just spent as much as they could afford on releasing poults for the coming season and who knew they had wild Goshawks in their area. This was just basically irresponsible journalism

  • Trichomonaisis is a big problem these days and is spread mainly by feral pigeons, it is killing hundreds of songbirds and we are getting a very high percentage of Tawny Owls found with it and sadly by the time they are bought to us there is little that can be done as the throat is completely blocked and as Paul says the birds just cannot eat, surely these so called countryside experts should know about these things but I would presume that they and Songbird Survival (SS) don’t really care. It is so easy to blame raptors and corvids,giving them what they feel is a valid excuse to go out and exterminate the very things they hate.

    I remember another group of people with the intials SS who were hell bent on exterminating what they didn’t like and look what happened to them. Songbird Survival have chosen a very appropriate name, well it sound better than Raptor Extermination doesn’t it?

    I have met some of these people and believe me their hate for raptors is frightening, they are fanatical just like the last leader of the SS, and if you work with raptors you are soon subjected to their hate as well.