Lessons in eagle ecology part 2

Hot off the press from the team who brought you Eagles Could Eat Children (see here), this month’s lesson is all about Why Eagles Don’t Nest on Grouse Moors.

Contrary to the endless scientific papers that show unequivocally that eagles (and lots of other raptor species) are absent from many upland grouse moor areas in the UK due to high levels of persecution, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association has today informed us of the real reason they’re absent:

Many grouse moors do not have the isolated nesting habitat which is required by eagles so it should come as no surprise they don’t nest there“.

Strange then, that there are ‘many’ (see quote below) unoccupied eagle nesting territories in Scotland where eagles are known to have bred historically, and that these old nest sites just happen to be on land that is managed for red grouse shooting! Here’s a quote from the Golden Eagle Conservation Framework Report that was published by Scottish Natural Heritage in 2008 (available here) –

The most serious failures to meet favourable conservation status tests were in Natural Heritage Zones in the central and eastern Highlands where less than half of all known territories were occupied. Based on the production of young golden eagles, the populations in these regions should be expanding markedly, but instead they continue to decline (there was a loss of 15 occupied territories between 1992 and 2003, and 86 vacant territories by 2003). This indicates, in the absence of any evidence for emigration, that survival of subadult and/or adult birds is low“.

It’s also strange that before the sentence about ‘many grouse moors do not have the isolated nesting habitat required by eagles’, the SGA tells us this: “A large portion of all eagles fledging takes place on grouse moors across Scotland“. Eh? How can that be, if the habitat ‘isn’t there’?

The SGA article continues with some name-calling (and this from the group who have recently complained to the Scottish Government about how they were being portrayed!) and then some partly-accurate but mostly inaccurate information about siblicide amongst eaglets, before getting in another dig at the Irish Golden Eagle Reintroduction Project (yawn). This all builds up to a grand finale where we’re told:

If you were to read all the media reports you could be forgiven for thinking that raptors only breed safely on reserves. The truth is there are possibly 500’000 raptors in the UK and 350’000 of them will be breeding successfully on land used for game sport shooting of some kind. This fact is completely ignored by those attempting to take the moral high ground“.

Hmm, I’d be really interested to see the data that this “fact” is based upon. Especially in light of the recently published scientific paper (see here) that shows, again unequivocally, that peregrines nesting on grouse moors in northern England are 50% less successful than peregrines that breed on non-grouse moor habitat.

Interestingly, the SGA article makes no comment about the poisoned buzzard and poisoned bait that was found on Glenlochy Estate and was reported in the media two days ago (see here). The SGA wouldn’t be trying to deflect attention from yet another disgusting and illegal poisoning incident, would they?

SGA article here

One thought on “Lessons in eagle ecology part 2”

  1. And it’s not just limited to Red Grouse moors, many of the sheep crofting areas also have ages old traditional eyries that are not allowed to be re-occupied. As soon as a new pair take up an old eyrie site they disappear as if by magic, sometimes they even manage to lay eggs but that’s usually as far as it gets.

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