These birds are multiplying in vast numbers there is little natural predation and our milder winters no longer reduce the Magpies numbers as they once did. Magpies are no longer regarded solely as 'country' birds as they now venture into urban areas during the winter (and Summer) and find ample food stuffs put out for smaller birds. The RSPB recognise the problem and are aware that Magpies (by taking eggs and chicks) are having an undesirable effect on other bird populations (something that the Grey Squirrel also does !)
If you have Magpies in your garden do this simple test......
Listen....... Hear anything ?
The chances are that you won't be hearing any song birds, they tend to keep well clear of Magpie territory and nest where they feel safe.
I've proven this theory on more than one occasion by clearing an area of these 'dinner suited' robbers and then monitoring the return of the passerines.
Magpies will eat almost anything - it's also no coincidence that they start nest building in early Spring, they want to be ready to take advantage of ready supply of eggs that is forming around their territory !
Crows and Rooks
Neither are the terror of the hedgerows that the Magpie is but their numbers are increasing and they can cause considerable crop damage. Gamekeepers don't pursue them as they used to, so these Corvids have a pretty easy lifestyle and are on the increase.
The Jay - a beautiful and rarely seen bird in it's woodland habitat. The Jay will take eggs and chicks from nests but it will also eat Acorns and nuts - like the Squirrel it will bury some seeds and Acorns but the Jay leaves the nut or seed intact, allowing it to germinate. The Jay is responsible for more than 40% of all new Oak trees in the UK .
Even though the Jay is a member of the Crow family, I leave them unmolested.
About 8"-10" in size, the grey fur is slightly more tawny in summer. The 7"-10"bushy tail is bordered with white-tipped hairs,
They're cute, intelligent and fluffy. That's the general view point of most 'townies'.
The fact is they are another increasing pest and officially classified as vermin.
They are not indigenous to the UK , Grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) were brought over to England from North America 130 years ago and have now driven our own Red Squirrel out of their natural habitat.
Since then, they have become a pest, with an estimated population of 2.5 million in England, Wales and central Scotland.
The population rapidly displaced the native Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), which once had a population of five million but which now number about 150,000 and which scientists say could be wiped out within a decade.
The Red cannot compete for food with the Grey, and is also highly susceptible to the fatal parapox virus, which the Grey carries but to which it is immune.
The Red Squirrel is now only found in relatively small areas of the country. Campaigns are continuing across the country to breed more Reds.
In northern England, efforts are afoot to keep and increase the Red Squirrel population - controlling/removing the Greys in those areas is imperative.
The Red Squirrel is approximately 2/3 the size of the Grey, they are not able to co-exist, so are unlikely to be found in the same habitat.
Grey Squirrel habitat is woodland with nut trees, glades, parks, and lawns. It nests in holes in trees or builds leaf nests in tree branches ( often taking over a magpie nest which it stuffs with leaves ).
Grey squirrels are active year-round and arboreal; they cannot live in a treeless environment. They bring no benefit to the habitat in which they choose live, they feed on a great variety of things, such as nuts, seeds, fungi, fruits, and the cambium layer of tree bark, as well as eggs and chicks of many birds. They bury acorns and other nuts - but before they cache the nuts, they bite out the base which prevents the nut/seed from germinating. Autumn is the season that Squirrels begin to gather and cache nuts around their territory. During the cold winter months they find them with their keen sense of smell.
Breeding commences in January through to June, they will have between two and seven young.
Red Squirrels are not vermin, to shoot one would be an unlawful act !
According to Forestry commission figures, the Red Squirrel population in England and Wales has declined by more than 75 per cent between 1959 and 1991.
Grey Squirrels now out number the Reds by 66 to 1 in the UK ! (2002)
Another import into this country! Thought to have come here on Norwegian timber ships in the 1800s, hence its generic name Rattus Norvegicus.
There can't been anyone that thinks the Brown Rat is cute and cuddly - I shoot them on sight.
A recent survey in the UK suggested that at any one time - you will never be more than 10 feet away from a Brown Rat - where ever you are ! And as a consequence of the current bad floods (2000/2001) there is every reason to believe that they will be even closer !
One good thing that the Brown Rat has done for humans was to drive out the smaller Black Rat (remember the Bubonic Plague).
Brown Rats can't abide any other rodents sharing their food supply and will always kill them or drive them out.
Remember "If you've got mice, you ain't got Rats !"
The largest Brown Rat that I've ever shot measured 18 inches from tip of nose to tip of tail, but I have seen a bigger one !!
You can't be sure a Rat is safe to pick up even
when it goes 'belly-up' like this.
Some Rat advice.
Never corner a Rat, it may jump directly at you.
Never try to pick up a live Rat, they have a vicious bite.
Young Rats can climb their own tales, unlike larger mature Rats.
Never handle a dead Rat as they carry a filthy disease called Weil's Disease (pronounced Vile's). Victorian rat catchers called this ailment the 'The Yellows' .
If any Weil's bacteria gets into your blood stream through cuts, putting contaminated fingers into your mouth or worst, through being bitten ! You could be dead in less than two weeks !
If you think it possible that you have contacted any Rat body fluids, and you now have Flu-like symptoms (and you're turning Yellow), go to and hospital insist on an ELISA blood test - fast !
In this area of the country we have the National Water Sports Centre and there have been many cases of water users contracting Weil's disease.
The 'greys', young rats, don't let them get any bigger than this if you can help it !
(Not a pest species)
Commonly called the water rat, this largest member of the vole family can be found in slow rivers, ponds, streams an ditches. Easily recognised with its hairy tail and rounded face, it has found itself under threat in recent years through the increase in water pollution throughout the country, the deterioration of its habitats and the rise of the mink.
The woodpigeon is the most serious bird pest to the farming industry in the UK.
As a major shootable species and agricultural bird pest the woodpigeon is important to many hundreds of thousands of sportsmen and farmers in this country.
The costs to farmers from crop damage run into millions of pounds each year.
Large numbers of pigeons are shot for crop protection.
The national population has more than doubled over the past 25 years, largely due to oilseed rape.
The woodpigeon in the UK is unique in that it is largely non-migratory, unlike the population on the continent - hence crop damage occurs all the year.
Usually considered shotgun quarry but small numbers can be taken with an air rifle.
Fact: The bones of a pigeon weigh less than its feathers.
Often referred to as the 'flying rat' these scruffy individuals look more like oily rags than birds, congregating on or around public buildings fowling ledges and the ground below (causing a slip hazard). The build up of debris from roosting Pigeons can cause blockage of guttering and drainpipes plus damage to roof top machinery.
Feral pigeons are believed to have descended from domesticated strains of the Rock Dove and it continues to interbreed with racing pigeons and pigeons from bird fanciers' lofts, typically they produce four or more clutches of two eggs per year. They build their nests from any materials they can find (including plastic) on ledges / inside derelict buildings and on emergency stairways.
Feral Pigeons can carry several species of mites which can cause severe irritation of the skin. Numerous secondary insects are found infesting the droppings. Because of all the bacteria, fungal agents and ectoparasites found in pigeon droppings they can be considered a health hazard.
Pigeons do not migrate, their natural instinct is to stay near their birth site. Their presence in and around public places, factories, restaurants/cafes, farms, docks and hospitals make them the No1 (#1) urban pest !
An air rifle is ideal for despatching this urban and rural pest !
Do Not Feed Feral Pigeons
The Collared Dove only arrived in the UK in the early 1950s, it had slowly made its way from India crossing Europe finally arriving in the UK in 1955.
Initially it received the highest legal protection - in 1963 a boy in East Lothian was fined for shooting one !
In 1981 the legal protection was removed - the Collared Dove was no longer a rarity and was now an official pest.
Like Feral Pigeons the Collared Dove will try to breed all year round and is capable of having 5 broods per year.
Turtle Doves (Not Pest species)
It is worth mentioning here that care should be taken when shooting Pigeon or Collared Doves to avoid accidentally shooting any Turtle Doves. They are not a pest and are only a summer visitor to the UK.
Stock Dove (Not Pest species)
This is a mid-sized pigeon much smaller than a Woodpigeon and rather more delicate than a Rock Dove or Feral pigeon. It completely lacks any areas of white but, at rest, it looks like a bluish-grey dove with double black wing bar and iridescent light green feathers on the side of the neck. In flight the tail is the same colour as the rest of the bird with a broad dark tip.
The UK Rabbit population is now estimated to be about 37.5 million pre-breeding animals. A female rabbit can produce around 20 offspring each year, which are known as kittens. As a result the rabbit is now the most commonly seen mammal in Britain. When the population peaks in summer there can be as many as 300 million!
In their present numbers rabbits can be a serious pest to farmers by causing reduced crop yields, damage to trees and young saplings and erosion of ground around their warrens. Consequently, in the interests of crop and environment protection, they provide much sporting opportunity, and are taken by a variety of methods.
On the positive side, rabbits grazing on downlands can form an essential habitat for butterflies and other insects.
Rabbits can grow to approximately 45cms in length and are the largest air rifle quarry. Airgunners can take large numbers of rabbits when using stealth tactics.
(No longer a pest species)
Starlings are no longer on the list of UK pest species.
House Sparrows are on the decline in the UK.
(No longer a pest species)
It's debatable whether the Mink should be regarded as Air Rifle quarry or not, but as the numbers of these vermin increase the fact is that they do need to be controlled.
From tip of nose to base of tail approximately 15". The tail is a further 5" long. Found in most parts of mainland Britain, except the Lake District and the mountains of Scotland.
Preys on Waterfowl, birds, small mammals and fish.
The mink is an introduced species. It was brought to Britain from North America in the late 1920's to be bred for the fur trade. Since escaping (and being released !) it has established itself successfully in the wild.
Mink have vicious bite and a reputation for being blood thirsty they are known to kill other animals even when not hungry.