A controversial new study that claims that grey squirrels do not have a significant impact on the populations of England’s woodland birds, has been dismissed by conservationists.

The study, titled Potential impact of grey squirrels on woodland bird populations in England, was published in the January issue of the Journal of Ornithology. Reviewing data from the British Trust for Ornithology’s (BTO) Breeding Birds Surveys, researchers from the BTO and Natural England examined the impact of grey squirrels on 38 bird species across the country.

The researchers concluded that grey squirrels had a negative effect on just five woodland bird species including the common blackbird, green woodpecker and Eurasian collared dove.

The findings of the study contradict the widespread view that grey squirrels have caused declines in woodland bird numbers over the past 40 years. BTO ecologist Dr Stuart Newson said that grey squirrels may locally suppress the populations of some species, but they do not cause the birds any lasting harm. “This was the first national analysis of its type to be carried out, so I was open-minded as to what I might find. Grey squirrels are very unlikely to have driven observed declines in woodland birds in recent years,” said Dr Newson.

The rest of this article appears in 20th January issue of Shooting Times.

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