Solutions to the bird problem

Reading the latest missive in the Rothbury rook rant, on a dispiriting wet Friday morning, led me to look back at the preceding correspondence triggered by your article of July 19.

The debate so far does appear to be mostly on differing views about the statistics driving ‘public opinion’.

The original article reporting the meeting carried a short fact note about rooks’ distribution, diet and nesting under the sub-heading ‘Successful pest’ (an arguable label), but it is also worth considering its nature – a colonial species (much as people), which lives successfully in close communities despite being argumentative at times, which, having established its preferred living area, is reluctant to abandon it (much as people); inevitably inclined to make litter where it lives (much as people).

Coun Gilson wonders how many small towns like Rothbury will have a rookery in the High Street.

I cannot find any current data, but in his The Birds of the British Isles (1954) Dr Bannerman observes ‘rookeries are more often than not in the midst of human habitations in villages or small townships. While The Handbook of British Birds (1951) states ‘often associated with villages and open towns but not large, built-up areas’, so perhaps the situation may not be all that unusual.

As with most problems, there are a number of potential solutions, some already mentioned in the article:

a) Egg sterilization – impracticable for a high tree-nesting species.

b) Culling – whether of young at various stages of their development or free-flying adults – very messy and visible, cannot be guaranteed to be quick and humane, so undoubtedly socially unacceptable to a large sector of the community.

c) Nest removal – would entail complete removal of all the existing nest material early in the winter when the birds are away feeding in the countryside and using their winter roosts – labour intensive and expensive but could break the pattern of occupation.

d) Remove the trees – depends on how real an issue this is to the community.

Whatever course of action is decided upon, be careful what you wish for, because rooks, like people, tend to put down lasting roots after generations in a particular locality.

Dave Makepeace,

Park Road,

Swarland