A LOCAL bird lover has raised his concerns for the population of small birds in his area after six nests around his home were attacked by magpies, killing a number of starling chicks.

Maurice McGrath, who lives on the outskirts of Ederney, has been providing habitats for small birds around his home for many years, but over the last two years he has seen starling nests being attacked by magpies.

“There were six starling nests. I deliberately cut six squares out of the fascia board all around my bungalow here, so that they could go in and nest.

“Two-inch squares to provide homes for them,” he said, noting that it is the same breed of starlings that have been nesting in the area for the past 50 years.

Maurice explained that the starlings had started nesting in early May, but unfortunately the nests were attacked by magpies in mid-June, killing all of the starling chicks.

This is the second year that the starling nests around his home have been attacked by magpies.

Commenting that the killing of the starlings by magpies is very upsetting, Maurice explained that he has also noticed a decrease in the number of other small birds in his area.

“It’s devastating. I walk a lot with my dog, and I know for a fact the numbers [of small birds] are down.

“There wouldn’t be three swallows in Ederney village this year. I always kept a count of them. There were three areas around the village and there was a group of swallows every year, approximately 20 swallows.

“This year I see none in the village. The magpie population is going up every year. Everywhere I go now, I see magpies, magpies, magpies,” Maurice told this newspaper.

The Impartial Reporter reached out to the RSPB, asking if they are aware of this situation being a regular occurrence and what can be done to help prevent this.

A RSPB spokeswoman responded: “It can be extremely upsetting to see one species predate on another species, especially if young birds are the prey. It is human nature to want to protect the birds being attacked. However, this is the ruthless side of the natural world we share, and predation is a daily threat for every other species.”

The RSPB spokeswoman explained how all species around the globe have evolved defences and strategies to cope with predation.

“The magpie is one of the UK’s native predators, and all the birds you will see in the garden have also evolved with predation by a magpie. None of the evidence we have seen suggests that the magpie is the cause of the decline in songbirds. They occupy a niche as a natural predator, which all food chains require,” said the RSPB spokeswoman.