Brenda Claxton writes:
There has been lot in the news recently about whether farmers should be allowed to shoot crows and magpies because they eat small baby birds, some of which are becoming rare.
I love all birds and have been fascinated to read how intelligent crows are, how quickly the learn, and it does seem atrocious for anyone to shoot them. Unexpectedly I have found myself personally involved in this debate.
Clever, omnivorous crows: do you want to exclude them from your garden?
We have four bird feeders in our garden – 2 peanuts, 1 mixed seeds and 1 for niger seeds to feed the goldfinches. At this time of year the adult tits can be seen collecting nuts and seeds to feed their growing chicks and I love watching as the blue tits fly from the feeder into the bird box on the house wall, where no doubt the newly hatched chicks are waiting with open mouths.
However, to our consternation, every early morning this spring the crows have dominated the feeders. Unbelievably, as I watched, they have learnt to balance on the peanut feeder and peck out the nuts. Slowly over the past month they have become more adept at this manoeuvre. On the ground beneath prowl the magpies collecting fallen food, their attempts at balancing on the feeder have been unsuccessful.
This has not happened before to my knowledge and as a result of the crows dominating the feeders the small birds are disappearing from the garden. This is a real loss as usually in May we find lots of small baby tits, both great tits and blue tits, start to cluster round the feeders, watching their parents and learning how to feed themselves. My daughter who lives outside Bath tells me that her garden is filled with baby birds at present but this year I haven’t seen any in our garden. Are the crows eating them or just frightening them away, I ask myself?
I also wonder if there is a change happening in the universal crow world since I know from reading the literature that crows first learn new skills from watching each other and then, when a certain number has been reached, the skill can spread intuitively to other crows in other areas without any physical learning taking place. This can also happen within the monkey population.
Is this is what is happening with crows in the UK at present, I ask myself, and I would be interested to hear if anyone else has noticed crows dominating their bird feeders.
I find all of nature beautiful but this change in the bird habits in my own garden both surprises and distresses me for its future implications.