Yesterday I described a scientific study on the potential impacts of predators such as sparrowhawks and magpies (and others) on songbird numbers.

This important study, which provides hardly any support for the widely-held idea that common predators have driven down the populations of songbirds in the UK has been described elsewhere by others, so you can check my description against those.

The paper's summary is published by the Journal of Applied Ecology here.

The BTO, who were the lead researchers issued a press release and also an article.

Songbird Survival, not known for their balanced or enthusiastic approach to predators, and who funded the research, mention its existence on their website, and link to the BTO press release, but have not yet given a full account of the research findings nor have they updated their views on grey squirrels, sparrowhawks, magpies etc in order to take account of the research that they themselves funded.  Previous press quotes from Songbird Survival suggest thay they may be taking time to come to terms with the results of the research (see here, here, here, here)

Other links I have found to the results are here and here.

But the Daily Mail and Daily Express appear to have read different scientific papers!  Where are all the songbirds? Ask a hungry sparrowhawk trumpets the Daily Mail and Named, the guilty hawk echoes the Daily Express.  Do have a look at both and see how wide of the mark the headlines are and how far short of accurate is the reporting too.  Heaven knows what the Shooting Times view of the research might be!

Anyone can make up their own minds on what the science says - the internet certainly helps because you can read the published paper (just its abstract right now, but later the full paper) and the views of its authors - but if you only read the Mail or Express today do you think you would have an accurate picture of the research?  And all those who just skim the headlines - how accurate an impression would they get?


  • I see that Stuart Winter in the Express has published a reasonable summary of this report even commenting on the strange headlines.  I always thought he was a deputy editor but perhaps not that involved in the original headline.

  • I do hope that Songbird Survival will now reflect this report sensibly in their displays at the various rural events they attend.  I cannot forget the day I walked into their tent at Tatton Flower Show and they were explaining about various predators.  I asked why they had a buzzard displayed as it was not going to take songbirds and got the reply ' Well, when it runs out of rabbits it could easily turn to them' ??

  • I've been searching high and low for my copy of a similarly priceless Mail article from several years ago, which followed on an RSPB silly-season press release announcing the imminent arrival of Black Woodpeckers on these shores.

    The Mail's headline, if I recall correctly, was "It's Big, It's Black, It's German, and It's Heading Our Way."

    Any chance of you tracking this down Mark? I've gone through the attic, I've searched the net without success.

  • A more comedic take on the study at

    Isn't it depressing that a comedy blog reports the story mroe accurately than two national papers?!

    Mind you, quite hilarious that SongBird Survival appear to have funded a study which makes them utterly pointless!

  • The first law of tabloid journalism states "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story".