Some of Britain's most familiar species, such as the robin and starling, could end up in the firing line under new measures to allow destruction of nests and eggs if they present a danger
The Observer, Sunday 18 May 2014
The humble robin, regularly voted the nation's favourite garden bird, captures hearts and minds like few other species. Since the Victorian era it has been venerated on the front of Christmas cards and in prose and poetry. "A robin redbreast in a cage puts all heaven in a rage," William Blake decreed.
A heartfelt concern for the bird's welfare was also captured in the famous nursery rhyme that asks: "Who killed Cock Robin? I, said the Sparrow, with my bow and arrow."
But now it appears that the country's 6.7m pairs of robins are no longer the feathered friend of yesteryear. A consultation by Natural England, the body that advises the government on the natural environment, has made the case for allowing people to destroy the birds' nests and remove their eggs, amid growing concerns that they threaten health and safety.
Natural England is also looking at similar measures to permit "taking, damaging and destroying of nests and eggs" for pied wagtails and starlings.
The consultation, which closes tomorrow, explains that the birds' nests should be considered fair targets if they "present a potential hazard", such as being found in ventilation flues.
Natural England has produced an analysis which suggests that the new measures, permitted under what are known as "general licences", will have no conservation issues for the three bird species. It is also proposing similar action against greylag geese and mallards. But the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) says it is concerned that the measures, due to be introduced next year, will mean the birds' nests and eggs can be destroyed without monitoring.