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Talkback: Magpies and mice

Reply to magpie-haters: I understand people not liking these birds. I'm protected from a lot of this dislike because I have cats that do their own fair share of song-bird destruction and in London I think the magpies are mainly scavengers rather than predators. We also get a lot of crows, and it is these, I think, that keep dropping chicken bones in the gutters. I recently saw crow-hate taking to an extreme. A dead one is now strung up by its feet on one of the neighbouring allotments. I was always told by my father that gamekeepers strung up their kills on the fence for two reasons, one to show their employer that they had been working well, and two, to frighten off other 'vermin'. Until last Sunday I had not seen such a display gibbet for 30 years.


  • Haven't had magpies in the garden but noticed in a local park whilst a load of small birds were mobbing a polystyrene chip tray in vain as it was upside down a magpie flew down turned the tray with its foot and flew off with the contents leaving a flock of enraged sparrows fighting over nothing these birds are observant and bright!
  • Pretty as they may be it is worth remembering that these birds are a member of the crow family and are a pest and will happily eat small birds, eggs and anything else that they can get there claws on. Would rather have the mice in my garden then magpies
  • I think most of us realise (if we are interested in birds) that the magpie is a member of the crow family and like all of that family greatly maligned. yes, they eat the young of other birds, a not uncommon habit in the bird family. Yes, they are scavengers of the rubbish humans leave around but their place in the world is as important as every other creature. We are all in the boat together and I firmly believe that the loss of songbirds etc is more rightly the fault of human pests than avian!
  • My house backs onto woodland and Magpies and Jays are a welcome sight, cleaning up any leftovers after the Squirrels, rabbits, Foxes, and other birds have finished having their share. I have even had one sit on my shoulder and eat from my hand when scattering seeds and other food for the birds. A rare event but it happens. The squirrels seem to be the most friendliest, especially when peanuts are on offer. Although many class Foxes as smelly vermin, I welcome and feed them as well, after all they are practically harmless, and its a real delight to see the cubs romping in the garden. They are of course all gods creatures and are entitled to their life just as much as we are. Its easier to live with them than without them. Food for thought. H.
  • I have a large beech tree at the bottom of my garden which is a favourite roosting place for about 8 pigeons. The mess on my lawn underneath is horrible and slimy - how can I get rid of it (or them) without killing my lawn?
  • Reply to Penny Meriden

    All you have to do is paint a picture of an owl on a piece of MDF and nail it to a branch in the tree. Pigeons ain't that bright. At least that's the theory. I'm not sure where I dredged this idea up from...perhaps 1950s children's encyclopedia or maybe one of my daughters was ranting on about how shtooopid pigeons are. It's worth a try. The kids have a little play house in the garden. We called it owl cottage after my pathetic attempt at painting such a cut-out. We never have pigeons sitting on it. But maybe that's because the cats see them off.

  • Magpies are beautiful looking birds but, for me, that's where it ends. We have 3 that arrive, on and off. They mostly arrive when the smaller birds are nesting, as eggs and chicks are easy targets for them. I feed the smaller birds and between the magpies trying to steal their food and harry their nests it's a tough life. When I am in the garden they stay well clear, they are not stupid! The noises they make are really annoying and trying to keep them away from nests is a real trial - it's as if they taunt me. We have a friend who uses a magpie trap, but we are still waiting for a loan of this trap. Magpies are very territorial, and although I said they aren't stupid, this trap is the exception to the rule. He puts a live magpie into one part of the trap and sets it outside. No sooner is that done then the offending magpies come down to trap to try and kill the bait magpie. They can get into a specific part of this trap, not into part the bait magpie is in, but cannot get out and then he takes them away. If he doesn't have a magpie for bait he puts eggs in its place and that works just as well. I haven't asked what he does with the magpies once he has taken them away!
  • We have too many crows and magpies who steal the food put out for the smaller birds. Do they have any predators? Also noticed a kestrel who sits in a large tree at the bottom of the garden and hunts in the ditches around the garden. Where do these birds nest?
  • Magpies deserve a place in any garden, whatever they do its just nature.
  • I am an amateur gardener who has just laid her first lawn. The turf was crawling with succulent worms which a magpie has been visiting daily. I feel privileged watching this magpie at work but I am anxious that this will actually harm my lawn. Is this so? Many thanks for your help. An anxious amateur!
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