Numbers have increased by 112% over the past 30 years, making them now the 13th most commonly seen bird in British gardens.

During the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, which took place over the weekend of 26 and 27 January, some 400,000 people counted more than six million birds across 228,000 gardens.

Controversy still surrounds the bird, however, as some refuse to acknowledge the destruction that corvids cause to the native songbird population.

Evidence from the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s farm at Loddington, in Leicestershire, where specific research was carried out to establish the impact of predators on songbirds, found that on keepered sites where the magpie population was controlled, songbirds flourished.

The RSPB refuses to accept these findings, however.

The charity’s Andre Farrar, said: “There is no convincing evidence to show that magpie predation is a conservation issue for songbird populations. Studies by the British Trust for Ornithology have shown that the failure of nests of potentially vulnerable songbird species did not increase during the period of rapid magpie population growth in the 1970s and 1980s.”

He added: “I’m conscious that giving a UK population-based answer to a question that is often driven by the distress caused by witnessing predation rarely leads to agreement.”

The rest of this article appears in 3 April issue of Shooting Times.

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