Songbirds also in the firing line

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Golden eagles aren’t the only birds in Norway to land in the firing line in recent weeks. Protests are also flying over a proposal by Norwegian environmental authorities to allow hunting of the small songbirds known as måltrost and svarttrost (thrush), which have been hailed in traditional Norwegian songs themselves.

The Norwegian måltrost (song thrush) is often seen at this time of year, as is the black-feathered version that literally can sing in the middle of the night. Now they're vulnerable to be shot. PHOTO: Wikipedia

The Norwegian måltrost (song thrush) is often seen at this time of year, as is the black-feathered version that literally can sing in the middle of the night. Now they’re vulnerable to be shot. PHOTO: Wikipedia

“Gjøk og sisik,
trost og stær,
kommer nå tilbake…”

goes the refrain of a classic children’s song about birds reappearing in the springtime in Norway. If state authorities get their way, many of the trost won’t.

Among them is the brown spotted song thrush and the black-feathered version of the bird that, in Norway, often is referred to as the Norwegian equivalent of the Beatles’ “blackbird singing in the dead of night…” The trost have been singled out as being the targets of a hunt, because the state environmental authorities at Miljødirektoratet (Norwegian Environment Agency) claim their population is “strong and stable” and could tolerate hunting. The birds, they note, can pose a threat to Norwegian agriculture as well.

Agricultural and farming interests, backed by the Center Party, are also behind the government’s controversial proposal to allow hunting of Norway’s golden eagles. The seemingly happy little thrush have become subject to being shot at because of what the environmental directorate claims are their “connections” to species “that can cause damage.”

Jo Anders Auran, a senior adviser at the directorate who has caught lots of criticism since he emerged as the spokesman for the hunting proposal last month, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) in early May that the population of both the måltrost and the svarttrost is growing. He stressed that it’s the directorate’s job to propose new species for hunting, just as they also propose hunting bans on other species. Auran admitted that there’s little interest for small bird hunting in Norway, “but we think there will be interest if we allow it.”

Given the harsh and negative reaction that’s followed, he’s now singing another tune. “There’s been very strong opposition, and clear signals that this is perhaps something the public does not want,” Auran told NRK last week. He admitted that the proposal for songbird hunting has taken on unique proportions, because of the sharp response from the public.

It’s been led by the Norwegian Ornithologcal Association (NOF), which was shocked by the proposal and launched a campaign to block it. “We are many who have a close relationship to our small birds,” Martin Eggen of NOF wrote on the association’s website birdlife.no. “They give life, rhythm and sound to the summer in Norway. We enjoy having them around, and want them to have a good nesting season before they fly south again. Do we really need another bird species to hunt?”

NRK reported that hundreds of people had signed NOF’s petition against the hunting proposal just in a matter of days, and Auran himself is acutely aware that written response in the first hearing round has been overwhelmingly negative. Even hunting organizations have emerged as opponents, for fear of how shooting the songbirds could damage their own reputation.

“The response has been enormous, and shows that many see little reason to shoot more small birds in Norway,” Eggen of the ornithologists’ organization told NRK. He called the state authorities’ proposal, which will be evaluated this autumn, “incomprehensible” and poorly justified.

“I think we’ll win on this issue,” Eggen said. “There’s been so much reaction to this, that it would be unwise for the directorate to open up for this hunt.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund