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Rise in population of crows and avian predators linked to pheasant shoots

Large-scale pheasant and partridge shoots are boosting the populations of avian predators including crows, jays, ravens and buzzards, which are feeding on millions of the non-native gamebirds, according to a new study.

Despite gamekeepers legally trapping and shooting many avian predators to protect pheasants and partridges, researchers found “multiple positive associations” between areas of lowland Britain with large numbers of reared pheasants and partridges and higher populations of avian predators.

Ecologists say crows, ravens and other avian predators are feeding on many of the pheasants and partridges, which are released as young birds into the countryside. Pheasants killed by vehicles on roads also provide carrion for birds such as buzzards.

Other European countries release far fewer gamebirds – 3m captive-reared birds are put into the Spanish countryside each year, with about 15m in France – and Britain has higher overall densities of versatile, medium-sized predators such as foxes and crows than other European countries. Ecologists believe one reason is because larger predators such as lynx have been driven to extinction but many also point to huge quantities of released gamebirds providing food for foxes, badgers and red kites.

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