22 OCTOBER 1937, Page 16

Maligned Magpies?

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which has been the target of some highly displeased critics, issues a seasonal quarterly that is always of interest ; but in its latest number, as in many that preceded it, news from Britain itself takes a secondary place. One contributor from abroad puts the countries in order of merit as judged by the degree of kindness to birds. Switzerland is put at the top, Austria second and Germany third. Does England come fourth— or where ? The inference is that it is condemned by its treatment of the magpie, described as the most beautiful of all our birds. Now if kindness to birds were judged by the population of magpies, France would perhaps come at the top of the list. Both keepers and poultry keepers— especially turkey breeders—in this country dislike the magpie and it is rare wherever game preserving or poultry breeding is prevalent. The killing of the killers—and the magpie comes high on the list—is excessive. Major Anthony Buxton's recent pleas for the harriers and for the kestrel have a universal support among bird-lovers and should have among game- preservers and their keepers ; but truth demands a. qualifica- tion ; we must face the undoubted fact that the limitation of the numbers of carrion crows, magpies, jays is one of the chief reasons why small birds flourish peculiarly in FnEjlish shires. No harrier, buzzard or peregrine or even raven does one- fiftieth part of the damage attributable to a pair of carrion crows. Their persistent skill in carrying off young chickens

is scarcely credible. * * * *