A reader asked about controlling magpies without using a Larsen trap.
Question: I am not able to operate Larsen traps on my shoot as I can’t check them daily, so I do my best to control the magpies by shooting birds flushed from nests. Do both sexes incubate the eggs, or am I only culling the females?
David Tomlinson, highly regarded writer and ornithologist, answered: With magpies, incubation is exclusively the job of the female, so if you are nest shooting flushed birds you are only shooting females. Incubation starts when the full clutch of five or six eggs is completed and then takes 24 days. Though most pairs build conspicuous domed nests with a roof, it’s worth noting that as many as 30 per cent of nests are open.
When the eggs are fresh the female flushes readily, slipping away as quietly and unobtrusively as possible. However, when she is sitting hard on well-incubated eggs or young chicks she is usually reluctant to flush, and it may take several strikes or blows on the trunk of the nesting tree to persuade her to move.
For this reason it is always best to go nest shooting with a companion. The male does take an active role in feeding the chicks. Both sexes will defend a nest containing well-grown chicks, and this can be the best chance to shoot the pair.