Date: 2016-09-02 11:25:15 | Category: Bird Feeding | Author: David Cole
It is currently birdwatcher’s hell here in West Sussex – murder most foul is to be seen in every hedgerow.

The carnage is not pleasant to behold – but after all isn’t there something about “Nature, red in tooth and claw….” Tennyson I’m pretty sure….

Magpies, crows, rooks and woodpeckers search the hedges for nests of young birds to provide an easy and rich protein feast for themselves and their own young. My 5am- 6am trips to the paddock behind my home with three dogs for their early morning ‘comfort break’ - sends what seem to be flocks of black (and gaudy) marauders noisily skywards.


The Greater or Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) is a bright and acrobatic visitor to the feeding stations – but they have a darker side – young birds, eggs and even small rodents are all on the menu – we like to think that ours are so well fed with suet pellets and peanuts that they won’t bother the smaller birds – but they do.

Our one remaining Springer Spaniel – Emma patrols the hedges which bound our property and now gives plenty of voice in the event of an attack on a nest site. The distress of the parent victims when an attack is in progress is not a pretty sight and the bravery of the smaller birds is something to behold.

All the more reason to make the breeding season less stressful by keeping up with the feeding stations – the food will usually not feature on the menus of the chicks, who prefer something wriggling, but one makes life easier by keeping the strength up for the parents!


Bright and intelligent, and usually working in pairs, Magpies (Pica pica) are in the forefront of many attacks. I watched a pair mount an assault on the nest of a Ring Dove this week. They approached along a hedge and then split up – one bird boldly buzzing the nest and a parent Ring Dove bravely chased the interloper away. The spat between parent Ring Dove and Magpie No 1 proceeded with the Magpie gradually ‘retreating’ – drawing the Ring Dove further from the nest. Enter Magpie No 2 who quickly helped itself to a Ring Dove chick and retreated along the hedge to be joined by Magpie No 1 for their feast. Not pretty, but I suppose it is all a matter of the balance of nature…..

On the other hand Emma seems to have a soft mouth and soft heart to match, sometimes bringing a fallen victim of an attack to the house, the tiny bundle of wet feathers often making a fluttering recovery when she drops them at your feet.

Yes lads and lasses – it is a tough old world out there…….