Marco blames RSPB for songbird decline

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The restaurateur Marco Pierre White has blamed the decline of Britain's songbirds on the Royal Society for the Potection of Birds – the charity responsible for protecting them.

In an article published in Country Life magazine today, White claims the organisation should be taking drastic steps to curb the disappearance of birds such as sparrows, finches and larks. He says the crisis in the songbird population is partly due to farming practices and irresponsible cat owners, but says the RSPB has the ability to resolve it.

He argues that only stricter stewardship of the countryside will achieve the right balance of species in the wild because the population of birds of prey has been allowed to swell to an unacceptable size. In the article, White calls for the RSPB to let keepers cull buzzards, sparrowhawks and other raptors.

But Mark Avery, the RSPB's director of conservation, said that although numbers of birds of prey had increased, they had nothing to do with the small-bird population.

"The problems are intensive farming, pesticides and the loss of hedgerows. When raptors disappeared, you didn't see the countryside overrun by small birds.

"I'd be happy to speak to Monsieur White about this. We'll take him to one of our nature reserves if he takes us out for dinner in one of his restaurants."