18 FEBRUARY 1949, Page 20

Urban Duck

It seems that the unhappy wild duck who seek sanctuary on the lake of St. James's Park are shot from time to time as unwelcome visitors by the urban, it would seem very urban, authorities. The birds there run several risks. A daily crepuscular spectacle, of foreboding character, is the streaking across the neighbouring streets of great numbers of cats, which take toll. Duck, whether of common or rare species, were at one time shot on the reservoirs on the excuse that they flew from sewage farms and so fouled the London drinking water. Their numbers may certainly be very large, both on the Essex and the Staines reservoirs, a great favourite with flocks of widgeon, and an occasional shoot (such as is sanctioned, for example, at Tring and even Hickling Broad) is permissible ; but there is not, and is not likely to be, any excess of duck in central London. Thereabouts the more the merrier. If shoots are to be organised, let the target be carrion crows. I have known a full-grown chick to be killed by a crow in Richmond Park, and crows prevent the grebe nesting at Staines and elsewhere. No owl or hawk is so deadly an enemy to other birds as the carrion crow.