The culling of magpies to protect the numbers of British songbirds has been criticised by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The RSPB says the use of Larsen traps by the public is on the increase.
The magpie is one of a number of predators blamed for declining songbird populations.
The Larsen trap, which uses a live decoy bird, is not illegal providing certain conditions are met.
Roger Brownlow, from Lincolnshire, who has been using the traps for 10 years, believes that magpie numbers have grown out of all proportion.
“I’ve seen magpies steal the eggs or kill young birds. I started out by placing the traps in my back garden but now I go further afield. On average I catch 20 birds a season.”*
Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 certain “pest” birds can be killed on public health grounds, to prevent damage to livestock or to protect threatened wildlife.
Grahame Madge, from the RSPB, said: “In the case of those members of the public using Larson traps for the ‘protection of songbirds’ we believe the trap’s use is unnecessary. We feel that it’s testing the law to use the traps for this purpose.”
Research by the British Trust for Ornithology and the RSPB said there was no link between rising magpie and sparrowhawk numbers and the decline of songbirds.
The research suggested the problem lay with the loss of habitat loss caused by modern agriculture.
Larsen traps are now among the most common live catch traps and are particularly effective in catching magpies.