Letter: For the birds

Sir: It would be unwise to follow the example of St Francis in considering all wild bird populations as equal and equally good in compiling Mr Prescott's newly unveiled quality-of-life index (News, 24 November).

For the average urban dweller the depredation wrought by growing populations of pigeons and herring gulls indicates serious loss of environmental quality. Compared with that immediate concern, the knowledge that there are more skylarks in the countryside is likely to amount to scant consolation.

It should be a wondrous challenge for government statisticians to calculate how many countryside skylark benefits units it will take to cancel out a unit of urban pigeon costs before concluding that there has been a net improvement in the wild bird sector of the new happiness index. Meanwhile, a concerted effort by local councils to poison pigeons in the parks could send the index soaring.

Wild bird indicator watching should be a real cool new source of pleasure.

CAROLINE DOGGART

London SW3

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