The buzzard blame game

There’s an interesting new paper just published in the scientific journal Conservation Letters, authored by Alexander Lees, Ian Newton & Andrew Balmford, called: “Pheasants, buzzards and trophic cascades”.

It was prompted by last year’s ‘buzzardgate’ scandal and makes for an interesting read. Here’s the abstract:

The partial recovery of large birds of prey in lowland Britain has reignited conflicts with game managers and prompted a controversial UK government proposal to investigate ways of limiting losses to pheasant shooting operations. Yet best estimates are that buzzards are only a minor source of pheasant mortality – road traffic, for example, is far more important. Moreover, because there are often large numbers of breeding buzzards, local control of breeding pairs may simply lead to their replacement by immigrant buzzards. Most significantly, consideration of the complexity of trophic interactions suggests that even if successful, lowering buzzard numbers may directly or indirectly increase the abundance of other medium-sized predators (such as foxes and corvids) which potentially have much greater impacts on pheasant numbers. To be effective, interventions need to be underpinned by far more rigorous understanding of the dynamics of ecosystems dominated by artificially reared, superabundant nonnative game species“.

Link to the journal here.

On a related topic, did anyone read the Xmas blog of Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association Chairman, Alex Hogg? If you did, you might have noticed this statement:

The day my [pheasant] poults arrived in July, the temperature dropped to 7 degrees that evening and it rained for 3 weeks. We lost 500 poults that night due to hypothermia“. (Read his blog entry here).

That high mortality seems to put the ‘buzzards are killing all my poults so give me a licence to kill them” argument into perspective, doesn’t it? It also raises some interesting concerns about welfare problems…

5 thoughts on “The buzzard blame game”

  1. So with the 1000 poults he loses to Buzzards a d 500 lost because he did t think to check the weather forcast out of the 3500 birds he releases he has alledgedly lost nearly half before the season has begun. makes you wonder how he holds down his job, there must be other members of the sga reading that and thinking is he really the sharpest knife in the drawer. No wonder all those graduuates have jobs already

  2. I come from Belgium where I worked in the field of Nature Conservation. In Belgium and the Netherlands (possible other countries as well) it is illegal to release pheasants. This because of the negative impact of pheasant releases on the habitat and wildlife.

  3. We are all surely aware that gamekeepers are challenged by difficult math techniques…like addition. But Alex has openly admitted to apalling animal cruelty that should surely be investigated.

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