New study shows extent of peregrine persecution on grouse moors

A new study has just been published in the international scientific journal Biological Conservation. Following hot on the heels of earlier studies that have demonstrated how illegal persecution on UK upland grouse moors is affecting the conservation status of golden eagles, hen harriers, red kites and goshawks, the latest study shows the damage that this disgusting practice is having on a population of peregrines in northern England.

You need to be a subscriber to the journal Biological Conservation to access the full paper (or alternatively you can buy it [see link at foot of this post] or you can google the paper’s lead author, Dr Arjun Amar, to see if he’ll send you a free PDF for your own private use), but here is the published abstract:

Wildlife crime can be difficult to quantify, and its true impact on populations can be underestimated if rates are under-recorded. The illegal killing of birds of prey is an important form of wildlife crime, which in the UK, is often associated with land managed for the recreational shooting of red grouse Lagopus lagopus scoticus. In the UK, increases in peregrine falcons Falco peregrinus following recovery from organo-chlorine pesticides have not been uniform, with slow growth and localised declines in some areas, including those managed for red grouse shooting. In this study, we combined 1081 peregrine nest histories across northern England between 1980 and 2006 with a remotely sensed map of grouse moor management, to test whether breeding performance was lower in areas with active management for grouse shooting. Productivity of pairs on grouse moors was 50% lower than pairs breeding on non-grouse moor habitat. However, clutch size and brood size of successful nests did not differ between habitat types, suggesting that food constraints were unlikely to explain this difference. Population models suggested source-sink dynamics, with populations on grouse moors unable to sustain themselves without immigration. Population data confirmed that growth rates were indeed lower on grouse moors than on non-grouse moor sites. Analysis of wildlife crime data confirmed that persecution of the species was more frequent on grouse moors than in other habitat types. This population will be more secure, and better able to function as a barometer of environmental health and climate change, if illegal persecution of the species ceases on areas of land managed for grouse shooting.

Even more evidence then, yet again, that illegal persecution in the UK is so serious that it is having population-level impacts on several raptor species. I think we can be fairly sure that the game-shooting lobby will try to dismiss these latest findings, especially as the lead author was an RSPB scientist and his co-authors were members of the Northern England Raptor Forum. We await their response(s) with interest.

Full citation:

Amar et al. (2011). Linking nest histories, remotely sensed land use data and wildlife crime records to explore the impact of grouse moor management on peregrine falcon populations. Biological Conservation.

Link to on-line abstract here

RSPB press release on British Birds website here

3 thoughts on “New study shows extent of peregrine persecution on grouse moors”

  1. A better way of showing persecution on Red Grouse moors would be to show historical nest sites with their success and and a long line of total failure from the early 1990s through to the present time. My nests sites have total failure for at least 15 years all on Red Grouse moors! Remember that can mean up to 10 birds killed a year trying to col anise a site.

  2. The only problem with attempting to show historical successfull Peregrine nest sites is that there are extremely few if any from working Red Grouse moors, this is also the case for many other Raptor species, in particular, Hen Harriers. I have seen keepers entries in old estate log books for so-called “vermin” killed that would make your hair stand on end for the sheer numbers alone, (or maybe not). It would be a great revelation for both the variety of species of Raptor and the numbers killed if some of these log books were made available for close scrutiny, but that’s most unlikely to happen. Very little has happened in the last hundred years or so to change the attitude of the Grouse moor owners and their gamekeepers towards our legally protected Raptors, many of them seem to have very little regard for wildlife law and in fact appear to be cocking a snoot at it judging by the number of times they get away with it, the only difference I’ve seen is they seem to be making greater attempts to hide incriminating evidence .

    The carnage unfortunately still continues unabated despite the best efforts of the RSPB and many others.

  3. The peregrine sites I monitor are very similar to those of John we need to be seen to be very scientifically rigorous, any failings will immediately be used by the otherside to rubbish the findings. Arjun is a very good careful scientist and we were and still are enormously grateful that RSPB allowed him the time to work on our collective data. Yes John it means that the worst results including an apparent lack of occupation are diluted by better sites but good science is still in our opinion the best way forward. We cannot expect to get away with and we know that means as many as ten birds per year killed , it may or may not be true (I suspect it can be true) but there is no scientific evidence and it is thus a weak argument to use. I would love to get hold of an English sample of “vermin”killed on moors in England pulblication of which would be devastating, but the chances are remote. On that note how do I get a copy of the paper based on the Atholl results?

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