Thetford’s bird scientists rescue doomed Tesco wagtail

BTO's Viola Ross-Smith with the Tesco wagtail'Picture BTO/Paul Stancliffe ANL-140923-141917001
BTO's Viola Ross-Smith with the Tesco wagtail'Picture BTO/Paul Stancliffe ANL-140923-141917001

A wagtail has been saved by Twitter and team of ornithologists from Thetford after Tesco was told to kill it as it could not be caught.

The pied wagtail had been hopping around Tesco’s Great Yarmouth superstore for weeks but when it continued to evade capture, environmental health officials told the company it had to go. So Tesco had to apply for a Wildlife and Countryside Act licence so that a marksman could shoot it with an air rifle.

BTO's Viola Ross-Smith, Greg Conway and Gary Clewley with their mist net on the left across the restaurant entrance ANL-140923-141928001

BTO's Viola Ross-Smith, Greg Conway and Gary Clewley with their mist net on the left across the restaurant entrance ANL-140923-141928001

But the public took to social media with its plight, which was picked up by BBC Springwatch presenter Chris Packham, who is also president of the Thetford based British Trust for Ornithology, and he suggested the trust might be able to help. Tesco tweeted it was happy to work with the BTO ‘and explore other options’.

So on Sunday morning a BTO team of media manager Paul Stancliffe and research ecologists Viola Ross-Smith, Greg Conway and Gary Clewley, who are all trained bird ringers, went to the store.

Paul said: “We set up a mist net and caught it in the cafe area in a couple of hours.

“It was in very good condition. It was feeding in the cafe area, where it apparently liked hash browns, but it was also feeding on the false ceiling above the clothing area’s changing rooms where the lights attracted insects. It was getting water from a dripping tap.”

The bird has been ringed, so they will know if it turns up somewhere else, such as Sainsburys.

Paul said the trust may also be training Tesco’s pest control contractors in using mist nets.

As soon as the wagtail was set free, Chris Packham tweeted: “The Tesco Wagtail has been caught and released by the BTO.”