A familiar bird to most people, the magpie can be encountered throughout the county and in most habitats. Its large stick nest, with its protective canopy, is obvious in the early spring before trees acquire their covering of leaves.
The 1984-88 survey was accompanied by a population estimate of 22,000 pairs. As stated at the time, this was an extrapolation from a very small sample, and with the benefit of hindsight led to an inflated value. The 1988-91 National Atlas showed that Magpies reached maximum abundance in Pembrokeshire, it also quoted densities of over 20 pairs per tetrad in farmland and 40 pairs per tetrad in woodland and suburban habitats. Applying these densities to the geography of Pembrokeshire and the distribution plotted by the 2003-07 survey, results in an estimated county total of about 10,000 breeding pairs.
Graham Rees. Pembrokeshire County Bird Recorder 1981-2007
The Magpie was a numerous resident according to both Mathew (1894) and Lockley et al. (1949). They were once persecuted in Pembrokeshire. Some idea of the scale can be gained from noting that 113 were killed on the Cawdor Estate at Stackpole in 1821 (Carmarthen County Records Office, Box 1-234) and by Lloyd’s diary entry for 1930 where he noted 60 strung up on one gibbet at Slebech. Such draconian measures diminished after the war and Magpies increased. They may now have reached optimum numbers and are found breeding throughout the county, in exposed places nesting in low thorns and gorse,,like those that have colonised Ramsey and Skomer.
The distance between nests was plotted in sample areas during 1987 and the results gave an average density of about 50 pairs per tetrad. Applying this to the results of the Breeding Birds Survey of 1984-1988 suggests a total population of 22,000 pairs. They habitually visit roads and verges to feed upon mammals, birds and insects knocked down by traffic, while each year many newly fledged Magpies also become casualties before they have learnt the art of avoiding approaching vehicles.
Lockley (1957) stated that winter roosts of 100 were common. In modern times 50-60 has been more normal, though up to 80 have been recorded at Goodwick and 112 at Plumstone.
Very numerous about all the wild and unpreserved districts of the county. Such numbers used to resort to our covers to roost that one winter we shot many of them, and the rest, taking the hint that we did not desire their presence, left us for a time. When we first waged war against them we were astonished at their indifference to our gun. We shot two or three out of a tree, and the others perched on it only craned their necks towards us, keeping up a great chattering, and never thought of flying away. We had many lying dead upon the ground before there was any attempt to escape. It was not until after several nights of slaughter that the birds judged it to be advisable to give our woods a wide berth.
Magpies are great devourers of eggs, young birds, &c, and it was on account of our Pheasants that we wished to frighten them away. In severe winters they are almost the only birds that keep sleek and fat, as they then feast upon the starving smaller birds. Mr. Dix writes of the Magpie: “Very common, but so readily destroyed that I fear it will soon be a rarity; still, as there are large tracts of country without a gamekeeper, it has a chance for the present. It is a very destructive bird, and in many places is quite a pest. I have heard of a place, in the extreme south of the principality, where they used to congregate at night like Rooks: it took all the keeper’s time to watch them till some poison was laid, and the following morning he picked up two or three barrows full of the dead birds. The country people are very superstitious, finding omens in numberless occurrences, and this bird is most carefully watched, as upon the number seen together, the direction of their flight, &c, depends a great deal of good or bad luck.”
Pica pica – PIODEN – Breeding resident Comparison with previous atlas: 1984-88 2003-07 Breeding confirmed 368 305 Breeding probable 26 81 Breeding possible 53 59 No of tetrads occupied 447 (of 478) 445 (of 490) Percentage of tetrads 93.5% 90.8% A familiar bird to most people, the magpie can be encountered throughout the county and […]
Pica pica – PIODEN – Breeding resident 1984-88 Breeding confirmed 368 Breeding probable 26 Breeding possible 53 No of tetrads occupied 447 (of 478) Percentage of tetrads 93.5% The Magpie was a numerous resident according to both Mathew (1894) and Lockley et al. (1949). They were once persecuted in Pembrokeshire. Some idea of the scale can be […]
Pica pica – PIODEN – Breeding resident The BTO winter atlas showed that Magpies were present in most 10km squares during the winters of 1981-82, 1982-82 and 1983-84. The darker the colour, the higher the relative total count for each 10km square. The darkest blue represents over 44 birds. Communal roosts were included in the plot. More […]