Jackdaws don’t take songbird eggs, says government

Because government scientists can’t prove they cause harm, you are no longer allowed to protect your songbirds from jackdaws and rooks in England.

A statement from DEFRA endorsed by DEFRA minister George Eustice reads: “Jackdaws and rooks will no longer be able to be controlled for conservation purposes because the evidence does not demonstrate that predation has a population-level effect on wild birds.”

Government scientists were apparently unable to prove that rooks and jackdaws steal the eggs of other birds to a level at which those birds may become rare. In a scientific first, the government scientists apparently believe that jackdaws and rooks discriminate against the eggs of rare birds.

Not proven: a jackdaw (Corvus monedula), with the egg of a common tern in its beak

You can still shoot jackdaws and rooks in order to protect crops in England. Due to the devolution of environment departments across the UK, the jackdaw is one of only five pest bird species you can shoot anywhere under the general licences, alongside feral pigeons, woodpigeons, magpies and crows.

Following action by Wild Justice in 2019, the law now says that you have to prove crops are growing, and that you have been trying alternative, non-lethal means before you go shooting, such as photographic evidence of scarecrows which you must move regularly.

The new licences will replace the current general licences which expire on 31 December 2020. From 1 January 2021, DEFRA says that licence users must act in accordance with the new licence conditions.

These are the new licences, which allow anyone in England to

  • WML GL40: kill or take certain species of wild birds to conserve endangered wild birds and flora or fauna. Species covered: carrion crow, jay, magpie, Canada goose, Egyptian goose, monk parakeet, ring-necked parakeet, sacred ibis, Indian house-crow.
  • WML GL41: kill or take certain species of wild birds to preserve public health or public safety. Species covered: jackdaw, feral pigeon, Canada goose, monk parakeet.
  • WML GL42: kill or take certain species of wild birds to prevent serious damage and prevent the spread of disease. Species covered: carrion crow, jackdaw, magpie, feral pigeon, rook, woodpigeon, Canada Goose, monk parakeet, ring-necked parakeet, Egyptian goose, Indian House crow.

Glynn Evans, BASC head of game and gundogs, said: “On first analysis, it’s clear that DEFRA has tried to produce general licences that are watertight and will bear the scrutiny of a legal challenge. However, the terms and conditions are more complex than the current versions they replace and where necessary BASC will continue to make representation to DEFRA and produce guidance and advice to help people interpret them.”

DEFRA took herring gulls and lesser black-backed gulls off the general licences last year. Users can continue to apply to Natural England for an individual licence for control of these species. However, the evidence from Fieldsports Channel viewers is that the government grants very few of these licences.

DEFRA now says: “It is likely that demand for gull licences under both the health and safety and conservation purposes in 2021 will be beyond what can be allowed to support the recovery of these species, and individual licensing will require strong evidence of proportionality in order to ensure that there is no detrimental effect on overall populations.”

DEFRA is ignoring local councils, which are being forced to pay compensation for gull damage.

For our full general licences coverage, visit Fcha.nl/generallicences

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