Destructive and abundant predatory birds are to be given greater protection in Wales at the expense of the country’s dwindling ground nesters and song birds.

The Board of Natural Resources Wales has voted to approve a set of changes to the Welsh general licences which will prevent their use to control magpies, jackdaws and jays for conservation purposes and will impose a limited time window to control carrion crows for conservation.

The proposals, which were published last week, were strongly opposed by BASC and the National Gamekeepers Organisation. In advance of the meeting, BASC’s Steve Griffiths said: “Being unable to control the birds for conservation reasons will put hundreds of individual projects and Wales’ most vulnerable species at risk. Curlews are just one of many species that are on the brink in Wales, the licensing authority’s proposals are leaving those few that remain to the mercy of these well-documented predators.”

However these arguments held little sway with the NRW board. Only hill farmer Geraint Davies and Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB) member Zoe Henderson spoke against the changes. Ms Henderson spoke of the agency “chipping away” at the support of an “army of conservationists in the Welsh Countryside,” while Mr Davies spoke of his own personal experience of predation and emphasised the risk of birds being lost from Wales.

Wales losing bird life

Professor Steve Ormerod, a former chair of the RSPB, spoke in favour of the changes which were carried by six votes to three. Welsh shooter and conservationist Rhys Allan slammed the decision. Rhys said: “NRW have clearly shown that they are anti-shooting, now they seem to be anti-conservation too. Wales has been losing its bird life at a shocking rate and now one of the most important tools we have to protect songbirds and ground nesters like curlew is being taken away.”

The bird will remain on other licences, and NRW has pledged to introduce a scheme to allow individual licences. However Rhys rejected this idea, saying: “If a magpie is taking chicks I want to shoot it, not jump through hoops and wait weeks to get a piece of paper, by which time it and the chick are gone.”