I was amused recently to hear from a friend, a professor of behavioural ecology and one of Britain’s leading experts on magpies, who went to give a talk to a bird group in northern England. As part of his presentation my friend pointed out that, despite the magpie’s widespread reputation as a killer of garden songbirds, the predation actually had no discernible effect on the overall populations of the victims. In fact, the research showed that songbirds had increased in areas where the magpie had also flourished.

The chair gave his thanks for the talk and then pronounced with absolute certainty ...


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