‘Wildlife expert’ sends out misleading message on predation: Our letter to BBC Wildlife

Chris Packham

Chris Packham was very careful with his words, yet he still misleads us when he says magpie predation does not in itself cause population declines of other birds (Change is coming, June). It depends on your starting point. As indicated, farming intensification has been the main cause of population declines in farmland songbirds, but predation can be an additional factor which may or may not be important. 

However, it is more likely to be relevant today, given farming related habitat losses and the increase in magpies since the 1960s.

Magpies predate bird nests, they are much smaller than crows and are adept at moving through dense hedgerows where many farmland species nest. It has been shown that they can supress the productivity of breeding songbirds in those hedgerows in a modern farmland system.  If breeding success is a factor that limits population size for a particular bird species in a given area, and sometimes it will be, then magpies can cause that population to decline.  We can try and address these declines by changing farming, which may or may not work.

There is already a lot of good but expensive farming conservation practice in the UK today so, if we want to grow food and have farmland songbirds, it is unhelpful to brush over the potential effect of other factors.

Dr Rufus Sage
Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT)

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at 16:21 on 13/06/2019 by Jean Witt

It's the same with Jackdaws. They get into open buildings for animal feed our sparrows have gone, starlings are still trying to nest but the young are seen being taken, robins are rarely seen. Almost all our small birds have disappeared. No sign of any ground nesting birds only jackdaws sweeping the fields. The sky is black with them sometimes. We've never seen so many in the last 60 years. Do we have to wait until they have eaten up and gone of their own accord? Celebrities....hmmm....

Magpies .

at 9:21 on 13/06/2019 by David McKenzie .

There has been a big increase in the magpie population in the last few years causing an I balance in their favour . Mr Packham is far from being a silly man and I believe he is using the same trick as a hypnotist suggesting sentences and feeding words to the public through the bbc brainwashing the general public into believing his untruths . As I said he is not a silly man so he must have a very important reason for this as the countryside will very soon be a very different place to be going down his route .

Increase in Magpie Population in Rural areas.

at 8:19 on 13/06/2019 by Harry Wilkinson

Dear sir or Madam, Been an avid Gardener and been outdoors quite a lot I have noticed the number of magpies around my garden has vastly increased. Once upon a time I would see one maybe two at the most , now it’s more like five six and seven. Just yesterday I watched one magpie tear out a goldfinches best in my neighbours garden and carry off the young. Is the increase down to intensive farming.? Quite a lot of people round me feeding birds even through the summer. Regards Harry Wilkinson.

Magpie predation on song birds

at 7:01 on 13/06/2019 by owen williams

It is interesting to note that the authors of this paper state that they used two sets of data CBS - lasting covering 34 years and BBS - covering 10 years. They recognised that the CBS data covered by the longer period showed much stronger evidence of predator effect than the much shorter BBS data. In his rush to conflate an argument against the control of predators to aid recovery of declining species Chris Packham has, either not read the paper fully, or decided to disregard this important fact.

Magpies etc

at 22:58 on 12/06/2019 by Rudolf Pilsel

The problem has arisen by making aMr Packham a "celebrity" which gives the public the misapprehension that his views are some how more valid than those with real scientific expertise. Magpies are s problem and need controlling since they predate heavily on songbirds. If you want the latter you must control the former.

Magpie numbers

at 20:56 on 12/06/2019 by Simon kibble

Whilst we take in information from the media on all things in life there always seems to be inaccuracies and untruths being spoken by so called naturalists as in the case of Chris Packham . My own life's accounts of what I have seen with my own eyes are a long way away from what Mr Packham quotes . To have control on magpies brings about a greater sucess for our garden birds and those of our countryside too. Nest plundering of eggs and chicks and fledglings taken once leaving the nest by magpies and crows are both contributory to decline . FACT No room for discussion FACT. Dare I mention CATS .

Magpie predation

at 17:47 on 12/06/2019 by Val Smith

Over the years I have with five sparrow terraces managed to raise a small colony of house sparrows. The magpies sit on the roof and take the sparrows as they fledge. I have also witnessed them taking adult goldfinches and sitting on the lamp post outside. It is a nature reserve across the road and the magpies sit in the oak trees and take the baby black birds and thrushes as they call to be fed. I can see our song bird population being hit severely in the furure.


at 12:26 on 12/06/2019 by Bob Cook

Some years ago a late friend and I became concerned at the serious decline in songbird numbers in our gardens and surrounding farmland. my friend purchased a Larsen Trap. in the first season he caught well in excess of 100 Magpies and between us we kept up this number for 5or6 years. After my friend died, farmer who had borrowed the trap a few times and lives between us took on the trap and continued catching. Up until the recent ban we were catching 20 or 30 each year between us .We now enjoy a huge increase in songbird numbers. As a matter of interest I have a lot of blackbirds in my garden and they regularly nest in the hedge and on the top of boxes etc. under the eaves of a large shed. The magpies seem to know when the young blackbirds are about to leave the nest and raid them in . a group. they give themselves away with their distinctive, harsh call. If I am around at the time , then, in the past I have been able to deal with them. I just hope that by the time this year's young are about to leave I will be able to legally deal with them


at 10:58 on 12/06/2019 by Alec waller

I am 76years old come from a family of gamekeeper s .there is not a lot of us left.now we used to be paid 4pence for a pair of wings of magpies jays crows by the fire and feather.as there is not many farms have gamekeeper s.so it left to jest a few .to trying to keep these under control.it my hobby know with over 700 bird boxes about.and when I visit my boxes and find them dead in the box.nowing that the parent birds by magpies or jays it is so hart braking.

Wildlife "expert" Chris Packham - magpies.

at 9:57 on 12/06/2019 by Tom Cook

Cosmetic Conservation designed to sell to the uninformed via television will do nothing to save songbirds or any other species under pressure. In the meantime practical hardworking countrymen will continue the dedicated daily task of genuine conservation to protect and encourage these species for the future benefit of all mankind.


at 9:16 on 12/06/2019 by Robert Shaw

It appears that Chris Packham in his careful avoidance of scientific evidence and commenting only on one side of an argument, could well be instrumental in contributing to the decline of songbirds in favour of predators.

Next raids

at 0:14 on 12/06/2019 by Sam Cresswell

With out looking up graph surveys on magpie population, I notice a huge in crease in the magpie numbers since the sixties! This year I have seen three song bird nest raided by magpies. So how many thousands more have been raided by these birds, so much for saving the rare song birds Mr Packham😟😭

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