Shooting groups welcome NFU’s roost shooting initiative.
The East Anglian branch of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) is urging its 6,000 members to organise roost shoots across the region in a bid to control burgeoning woodpigeon numbers.

“The initiative was prompted by telephone calls to the regional office from members concerned about an increase in the pigeon population and the damage they were causing to crops, particularly oilseed rape, which is now widely grown in East Anglia,” said the NFU’s regional public relations officer Brian Finnerty.

He added: “We also received a growing number of complaints from the public about the use of audible bird scarers (gas guns) to deter pigeon. Some of those who complained asked why we had not promoted pigeon shooting days to try to control their numbers.”

Mr Finnerty added the NFU office then consulted the regional Combinable Crops Board and received backing for the idea of roostshooting days.

“They suggested that the days should take place on consecutive Saturdays at the end of the shooting season. We have chosen 6 and 13 February.”

Shooting groups have welcomed the move to control the pest species, especially as the most recent Breeding Birds Survey conducted in 2000 by the British Trust for Ornithology estimated that there are between five and six million breeding adult woodpigeon in the UK.

A spokesman for the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation commented that traditionally organised roostshooting takes place in late winter.

“When neighbouring farms agree to shoot on the same day it increases the effectiveness of the shoot. Having shooters in most woods in an area always helps, because when one person fires a shot the birds tend to be moved on to someone else.”

BASC’s head of press relations, Simon Clarke, said woodpigeon are now the country’s main agricultural pest and need to be controlled.

“Organised roostshooting is still carried out in many places around the country. It makes sense to co-ordinate pest control activities on neighbouring farms as the birds move around.”

Mr Clarke warned that pigeon can only be shot under the terms of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act: “All shooting of woodpigeon must be carried out in accordance with the terms of the relevant General Licence — in this instance for the prevention of serious damage to crops. Everyone taking part needs to have permission to shoot and to be clear why they are doing so.”

Shooting Times magazine contributor and author of Shooting Pigeons John Humphreys felt roostshooting should be actively encouraged across Britain.

“Organised roostshooting is one of the most effective ways of controlling woodpigeon numbers. The birds fly high and fast, however, so many shooters find they get through a lot of cartridges. I think that many more people should get in touch with their local NFU or BASC office to make contact with other roost shooters wanting to shoot woodpigeon on particular days – it makes sense to.”