Magpie has just killed a sparrow


I have enjoyed having loads of birds in my garden this year with a huge increase in sparrows which I adore (I recently found a baby with no feathers / fresh out of nest and couldn't find the nest so I drove it to a vet with an incubator recommended by the RSPB). I have lots of other birds visiting including Magpies, which I have always considered rather beautiful birds, but not any more. A magpie has just killed a sparrow and flown off with it. I am horrified! How do I protect the sparrows in my garden from Magpies? 

  • sarah g, hello there.
    I can only give you my opinion, and that doesn't include, I'm afraid, how to protect the sparrows in your garden.

    Magpies are still beautiful. They're just trying to survive and to make more Magpies. And this is part of how they do that.

    I very much like butterflies, and various tits eat caterpillars. But I very much like a whole range of tits. I'm very fond of Common Kestrels, and fret about whether particular individuals will make it through hard winters. But those Kestrels catch and eat those tits that I'm so fond of.

    And so on.

    Magpies are rather beautiful birds (that kill other birds). And that's nature. Personally there are times when I too hate that; but that's the way it works and always has.

    And I'm sorry for the sparrows (which I like very much).

    Best regards -
  • hi Dave, thanks for your reply. I guess it's a case of me having double standards as do like birds of prey, and they do attack other birds. I regularly hear all the sparrows squabbling but now when they do, I'm slightly paranoid that another one has been taken. I feel like they're under my care whilst they're in my garden, maybe I need to chill out a bit. thanks Sarah
  • I worried through a whole, cold winter, Sarah, that a male Kestrel would get through OK.

    He did, and he found a mate. And then they took a few newly fledged Great Tits right under my nose, the first less than 10 seconds out of the nest.

    It was heart-breaking. But that's what they do.

    Isn't there a character in one of the late Douglas Adams' books who builds his house inside-out so he can keep the entire world inside and look after it? Sounds like you have a touch of that. We do too sometimes (quite often, in fact).
  • Unfortunately it is part of that wonderful cycle of nature and the way it has evolved - sometimes you have to look at it as a whole. Magpies and Jays are 2 of our most beautifully coloured birds yet both can be seen as a serious threat to nestlings and smaller birds if viewed in that way. However, these smaller birds have large clutches of eggs to ensure that enough survive to carry on and if it wasn't for predation we would be knee deep in them.




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  • I have witnessed Magpies murder other birds this year twice for no apparent reason. One saw a blackbird in my fruit cage and was determined to get in after it which it did and then killed it. It was an adult blackbird and food was not a motivation. Second time was this morning when a gang of magpies made a frenzied killing of an adult wood pigeon and just left it there dead afterwards. What is their motivation?
  • In reply to Christos:

    Maybe the woodpigeon was ill and they've discovered the fruit cage helps them catch the smaller birds to eat later? Maybe they see them as competition or they want the carcass worms? Why would they would risk injury/predation/disease? It is not murder, it will benefit another creature. At any rate, we can hardly judge them on moral grounds can we!