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Impacts of birds of prey on gamebirds in the UK: a review

Author:
PARK, KIRSTY J., GRAHAM, KATE E., CALLADINE, JOHN, WERNHAM, CHRIS W.
Source:
Ibis 2008 v.150 no.s1 pp. 9-26
ISSN:
0019-1019
Subject:
Accipiter, Circus, Falco peregrinus, Lagopus lagopus scoticus, Perdix perdix, agricultural land, bags, birds of prey, breeding, ecologists, economic impact, employment, game birds, heathlands, humans, income, managers, mortality, partridges, predation, recreation, wildlife, England, Scotland
Abstract:
The influence of predators on the distribution, density and dynamics of their prey species has long been of interest to ecologists and wildlife managers. Where the prey population is also utilized by humans, conflicts may arise through competition for a limited resource. Because gamebird shooting in the UK provides employment, recreation and income, the impact of birds of prey on gamebird populations has been the subject of intense debate for many years. Various approaches have been used to assess the impacts that raptors have on gamebird populations. Here we review the applicability and limitations of the methods used and assess the scientific evidence for population-level and economic impacts of raptors on gamebird populations in the UK. Raptors may, in some situations, take large numbers of gamebirds and may be an important proximate cause of mortality, although few studies have addressed the impacts of raptors on either breeding or pre-shooting densities. Two exceptions are studies of Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus, Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus predation on Red Grouse Lagopus lagopus scoticus on moorland in Scotland and Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus predation on Grey Partridge Perdix perdix on farmland in England. Both these studies suggested that raptors could have population-level impacts when their gamebird prey was already at low density. Studies on predation of captively bred gamebirds suggest that numbers taken by raptors at release pens vary considerably and in a few cases raptors have been documented killing relatively large numbers. On the whole, however, it appears that raptors account for a relatively small proportion of mortality among released birds and the impact on subsequent shooting bags is unknown. We summarize important gaps in current knowledge and recommend specific areas for future research.
Agid:
2104427