Can You Shoot Magpies? What You Need to Know about Controlling Magpie Populations

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Magpies are wild migratory birds that have ruffled a few feathers with humans over the years. Because Magpies are unlike other wild birds like grouse, turkey, and pheasants, they are always open for hunting, and you can shoot them all year round. 

To most people, these are pests, and you can control their population at any time. Magpies are like the vermin of the air, and they belong to the family Corvidae, which includes crows, jackdaws, ravens, rooks, choughs, jays, and treepies. 

Read on to find out more about shooting Magpies and the laws that govern their population control.

Are Magpies a Threat to Humans?

At the turn of the 20th century, the adoration of magpies as a potential hunting partner changed. Their increasing numbers generated a vicious threat to game, livestock, and crops surrounding human settlements. As a result, the persecution of magpies without mercy was inevitable. 

Since then, there have been many laws in different states that govern the hunting of magpies. In some states/countries, you don’t need a special license to hunt magpies as it’s covered under the general permit issued by the government. 

But familiarizing yourself with the law of the land is essential. The general license stipulates conditions that you can hunt magpies without fear of prosecution. 

Generally, the permit belongs to occupiers, landlords, and authorized people. You must seek permission from these people if you don’t belong to this category. 

The license allows you to control the Magpie’s population if they present a threat or damage specific items that include; 

  • Crops
  • Timber
  • Livestock
  • Fisheries

Besides safety, it can be challenging to prove why you shoot magpies, especially if you kill them in a small town garden. 

The Economics of Control and Damage Caused by Magpies

Magpies can be beneficial to agricultural producers because they consume a high volume of insects. However, they also pose a threat leading to adverse impacts on agricultural produce.

If magpies dwell around proximity to poultry farmers, it can cause human—magpie conflict. To decrease depredation, poultry farmers should be prepared to implement solutions before magpies begin nesting.

Weigh the cost of each control method against the cost to ensure long-term success.

The Legal Status of Shooting Magpies

Magpies are classified under the migratory nongame birds. Therefore, they are protected birds, and hunting them can have repercussions.

According to the US Code of Federal Regulations, one doesn’t need a federal permit to control magpies if you find them.

  • Committing or about to commit acts of depredations on a shade or ornamental trees, wildlife or livestock, and agricultural crops.  
  • If the magpies are concentrated in large numbers or in a manner that threatens to create nuisance and health hazards.

Additionally, the Montana Title 87. Fish and Wildlife Act § 87-5-201 covers the extent of protection for wild birds, their eggs, and their nests. The law states that;

(1)    It is unlawful for any person to kill, capture, possess, buy, transport, expose or offer for sale, or hunt any wild bird except the game bird. It’s also unlawful to skin, plumage, or cut any part of a wild bird regardless of whether you killed or captured the wild bird within the state.

It’s also unlawful to destroy the eggs or nests of wild birds unless you have a permit issued by the state director, a falconer’s license, or a certificate.

(2)    This section, however, doesn’t apply to:

The killing, trapping, or hunting of crows, magpies, starlings, house sparrows, blackbirds, rock doves, and any other bird that the state department doesn’t approve of. It also doesn’t apply to the destruction and taking of the aforementioned wild bird’s eggs and nests.

Before you shoot magpies in the US, remember to consult with local and state authorities to determine what the law states.

Magpies are destructive and usually feed and damage walnuts, potatoes, almonds, figs, walnuts, grapes, peaches, barley, olives, melons, poultry eggs, corn, wheat, milo, and enlargements or the open wounds and cuts of livestock.

Legal Methods to Control Magpie Population

Over the last three decades, the magpie population has more than tripled. Not so many people will raise qualms over a few dead ones because they are the vermin of the air.

Many people want to find the easiest and quickest ways to eliminate magpies. But there are no quick-fix solutions besides shooting, trapping, and poisoning them.

However, these are not viable methods to deal with the menace of magpies in your area.

The federal and state laws protect all wild birds except starlings and English sparrows. Therefore, you shouldn’t possess, trap, or kill magpies without state and federal permits.

To solve magpie nuisance in your area, consider the things that attract them and eliminate those things. If you can’t eradicate the things that attract the magpies, build a barrier between those things and the magpies.

Also, consider calling a state wildlife officer, the US Department of Agriculture, US Fish and wildlife officer before undertaking any magpie control methods in your areas.

Consider these questions before killing any magpies:

  • Will the experts approve? If not, what are their recommendations?
  • Will my method harm other wildlife, pets, or people?
  • Will my method eliminate or reduce the damage?
  •  Is my method cost-friendly?

Magpie control is not simple. What works in a different place may fail in another similar situation.

Sometimes a solution is effective but only for a short while. The best secret to solving magpie problems is using several tactics.

Control Methods and Damage Prevention for Magpies

These are the viable control methods of Magpies as approved by federal and state laws.

1.      Exclusion

To protect crops from magpies, using exclusion is rarely a feasible method. However, it can work if the area you need to cover is relatively small and the crops are highly valued.

You can use nylon mesh or plastic covering nets over the crops, but this is not an economical way to keep away magpies. It’s also labor-intensive and time-consuming.

Netting is viable for individual plants or tree protection that are in a small area. Also, netting is economical to protect magpies from accessing young poultry nests and eggs, eye pecking of lambs and livestock with open cuts, wounds, or diseases, and urgently need temporary protection.

2.      Habitat Modification

Magpies are problematic, especially when it’s their breeding season. This may cause them to predate on poultry, and therefore nest removal is a viable solution.

It would be best if you also considered removing their roost trees and clearing bushes to reduce/thin their nesting areas around your farm.

3.      Frightening

Use various frightening devices to scare them away. For this, you can use an integrated management program—IMP that involves a combination of frightening methods.  These include:

  • Human presence
  • Fireworks or pyrotechnics
  • Scarecrows
  • Propane cannons

But it would be best to consider and assess cost considerations before deploying any of these methods. You can have mixed results as success depends on food availability, location, how you execute each technique (large scale or small scale)

Some frightening techniques like effigies, scarecrows, hawk kites, Mylar tape, and eye balloons are short-term control methods.

4.      Trapping

There are design traps that can trap magpies successfully. To set a trap, look for a location where magpies frequent, congregate, and near their flight paths.

You can use meat scraps to bait the areas but make sure you do so when the birds aren’t around. Also, magpies feed on small and dead animals, and these can be good meat scraps for baiting them.

To make the magpies get accustomed to your trap, set the meat scraps close to the trap for several days. Let the magpies feed on the meat scraps for some days before setting a trap on top of the bait.

Place the bait inside the trap further away from the outer walls. If you don’t trap any magpies after setting the trap and bait for several days, consider moving the location of your trap and repeat the entire process.

Magpies are suspicious birds, and if the material is shiny and new, they might not take the bait. Weathered or rusty traps can give improved results.

5.      Repellents

There are no effective repellents that are available to control the magpie population.

6.      Shooting

There is no doubt that shooting will reduce the magpie population, but this method is costly. Also, if the magpie population becomes wary, shooting is hardly an effective method.

7.      Toxic Bait

There are none registered under the code of federal regulations.

Illegal Magpie Control

Poisoning is considered illegal even though it is effective. It’s a method that puts other animals, birds, and people in harm’s way.

Don’t use poison to deter the growing population of magpies in your area. If you wish to control magpies that terrorize your garden, do so under the law.

Remember, science doesn’t support the notion that magpies threaten the conservation of garden birds. Therefore, using the general license permit as a defense is debatable in such an instance.


The magpie population is on the rise, and there is a need for improved reforms to deal with the situation amicably. Today there are fewer hunters and gamekeepers compared to the previous decades. Furthermore, the financial pressure of hunting is burdensome, and shooting magpies doesn’t make economic sense. 

While people that despise magpies may advocate for superior weapons of mass destruction, it’s not the ideal solution. Instead, the campaign takes a different direction aiming to educate people more about magpies as vermin. 

If the magpies are allowed to have their way, there will be no more songbirds in our compounds. Knowing the law and working to stay within it while shooting magpies is a burgeoning way to control the magpie population. 

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