Editor's letter (July 16 issue)

If we ever run short of letters to print in our newspaper, we have a sure-fire way of generating a response: simply get someone to take a pop at sparrowhawks
Yes, our mail bag has been bulging at the seams ever since one correspondent wrote in to tell us he blamed the sparrowhawk for the decline in the songbird population (“Hawks to blame?” June 4).
So many of you jumped to the sparrowhawk’s defense I’ve been unable to publish every letter, particularly as some ran to pages and pages. (Please note, a letter’s more likely to be published if it’s less than 250 words.)
There’s obviously something about birds of prey that gets people all worked up. While most of our readers aren’t falconers, I get the impression that most of you admire these birds for their beauty and majesty. How many of us haven’t been awe-inspired when seeing such birds up close and personal, whether in the wild or at flying demonstrations at local festivals or falconry centres.
Indeed, these birds are so popular, more than 10,000 people turned up to last weekend’s International Festival of Falconry in Reading (see page 3 of this week's issue.)
But despite their adoration, many birds of prey continue to be killed in the wild even though it is illegal to do so. Recently the RSPB asked bird enthusiasts to sign an online pledge to demand an end to this illegal killing. In just two days more than 10,000 people had added their names (see Week in Numbers, page 5, in this week's issue).
The illegal trade of these birds (and their eggs) is also on the rise, according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which published a Guide to Falconry Species last week. The guide aims to curb the illegal trade by making these birds clearly identifiable to the public, poachers and law enforcement officials around the globe.