Rising numbers of west Dublin magpies raises local concerns

Council says locals should focus on helping small birds rather than controlling magpies

South Dublin County Council says magpie numbers have increased recently in urban areas where waste food litter attracts them. Photograph: Frank Miller / The Irish Times

South Dublin County Council says magpie numbers have increased recently in urban areas where waste food litter attracts them. Photograph: Frank Miller / The Irish Times

 

Residents of Clondalkin in west Dublin have voiced concern at the growing number of magpies in the area, according to a local councillor.

Labour councillor Breeda Bonner said at a recent area committee meeting that there had been several reports of attacks on family pets and instances of songbirds being killed by magpies.

South Dublin County Council says magpie numbers have increased recently in urban areas where food waste attracts them. It advised that songbirds could be better protected through garden management rather than control measures directed at magpies.

Birdwatch Ireland says that while magpies do eat the eggs and young of other birds, this behaviuour is restricted to a relatively short period and for most of the year they consume other foods.

“It is probably fair to say that magpies may sometimes be blamed for predation by domestic cats, squirrels or rats, and are often used as scapegoats when the real reason for a local decline in small birds is habitat destruction, the biggest threat of all to our birdlife.”

The magpie is a divisive bird that provokes strong views among humans. “Some people love them, some people hate them, but everyone seems to have an opinion about them,” Birdwatch Ireland says.

South Dublin County Council says it has no responsibility in the control of species such as magpies and added that the use of poison is illegal in most cases and not recommended as a method of control for magpies.

“In any case, where magpies are common, control measures are unlikely to be effective in the long term, as new birds will quickly move in to replace those which have been removed,” the council said.

“Survival of smaller birds in gardens can be assisted by providing greater cover for nests, for example by the retention or planting of dense hedges, bushes and creepers which may diminish the level of magpie interference or predation on nests.

“Particularly good are evergreens such as laurel, yew and ivy, especially when they are planted close to the house.”