Grey squirrel devastates songbird population

The grey squirrel is having a ‘devastating’ impact on Britain’s songbird population, according to a new study by the wildlife charity Songbird Survival. It now ranks alongside the cat as the top predator of farmland birds.

The report, by Professor Roy Brown of Birkbeck, University of London, involved assessing the affects of 10 common mammals on the populations of 15 farmland bird species, over 115 farms. It showed that, in areas of high squirrel density, 93 per cent of small birds’ nests were predated. If the sparrowhawk is also a threat, this can lead to 100 per cent breeding failure in some areas, and a loss of 85 per cent of adult birds.

‘Many factors have been blamed for the decline in our songbirds in recent years,’ says Professor Brown. ‘?but mammal predation had largely been overlooked.’

The charity advocates the eradication of the grey squirrel in Britain and, recently, the British Trust for Ornithology has been commissioned to investigate the effect of the grey squirrel on woodland bird populations.