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Published: 2001-02-26 00:00:00

Magpies are threatening native bird populations, according to research being done in the Waikato and several other parts of the country.

This week’s Environment Waikato Biosecurity Committee meeting heard that native bird numbers in a controlled experiment in Maungatautari appeared to be dropping as magpie numbers increased. Native bird numbers in the treated area also declined but were expected to recover as magpies were controlled.

Environment Waikato and four other Regional Councils are taking part in a joint research project co-ordinated by Landcare Research over four years to determine whether magpies seriously affect native bird populations. Two similar sites of 900 hectares were selected, one in Pirongia where magpies were controlled and one in Maungatautari where no control was done.

Initial bird counts were done and over two and a half months 712 magpies were killed in the treated block from August to November last year. So far results show native bird numbers continued to drop while magpies increased in the untreated block. Birds were recovering in the treated block, especially yellow hammer which had increased dramatically.

It would be at least one breeding season before the effects of the control were more clear but preliminary results were encouraging, the Committee heard.

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