Brian Fleming <>
Sun, 18 Mar 2001 20:23:59 +1000
When we visited England last Sept-October, the Eurasian Magpie was the
first new British bird we identified, from the Heathrow Express.
We found them numerous and obvious everywhere - perhaps rather less so
in Norfolk where intensive Pheasant rearing occurs, and gamekeepers
destroy predators legally or not. Everywhere in England we heard
complaints that since the Magpies had increased in numbers, small birds
were less and less numerous. (Obviously farming practice and habitat
change also contributes here).
An elderly cousin in Dorset complained that he had never had to spray
his apple trees or vegetable garden before, because a large tit
population (for which he provided nestboxes) kept all pests under
control. Since the arrival of a 'gang' of Magpies which had
systematically robbed all nestboxes, he no longer has any tits or other
small birds in his large garden and his apples were full of codlin moth.
Certainly the only small birds we saw there were one Robin Redbreast,
plus a Pied Wagtail on the roof.
With regard to the Queensland Eurasian Magpie, I support its
destruction - the more so as I have been told that in Chinese culture it
is viewed as a 'lucky' bird, and would therefore almost certainly have
received food en route from the crew. It might have eaten anything at
all from the galley leavings, which could increase the possibility of
its carrying bird or mammal diseases. (Sailors of all nations usually do
feed small birds which come aboard ships anyway).
Anthea Fleming in Melbourne
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