Letter: Brids of prey still under threat

ir: Birds of prey need more protection rather than less if the comments reported by Duff Hart-Davis ("Feathers fly in raptor debate", 12 March) are typical of hill farmers and gamekeepers.

Sparrowhawks are only now returning to the population levels seen earlier this century when songbirds were abundant. It shows a woeful ignorance of predator-prey dynamics to attribute falling populations of farm songbirds to this rise in numbers. Populations of robins and great tits have shown no appreciable decline and they form the main food source for sparrowhawks in many parts of the country. There were no great increases in their numbers in the years of the sparrowhawk's absence. Given well-managed farmland with minimal use of chemicals, populations of larks should be more than able to sustain predation.

As for the shooting of buzzards, it was ironic that on the facing page gamekeeper Jake Fiennes talked about suppressing the numbers of rabbits. One of the main features of a buzzard's diet? Rabbits.

JOHN PEPPER

Sunderland

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