red_kite-1Populations of the majority of the UK’s birds of prey are now at their highest ever levels, the Countryside Alliance’s report “Birds of prey of the UK and their population trends” shows.

This boom is due to a number of factors, which include the prohibition of organochlorine pesticides such as DDT, the restriction of certain poisons, successful re-introduction schemes, a change in attitude amongst many landowners and the full legal protection of all species. 

Britain’s birds of prey are now very successful, especially compared to the UK’s other bird species many of which are in serious decline.

Of the 52 species on the British Trust for Ornithology’s list of species of high conservation concern only two are birds of prey – the hen harrier and the white-tailed eagle.

A successful reintroduction plan for the white-tailed eagle means that despite extinction as a breeding species 100 years ago there are now an estimated 40 breeding pairs in the UK.

And a Hen Harrier Joint Recovery Plan, agreed between Defra, moor owners, gamekeepers and conservation groups including the RSPB, has been created to try to boost the numbers of hen harriers in England. This year three pairs have nested – where none did the year before – and whilst it is obviously not enough it’s a foundation, on which the plan can build.

Countryside Alliance director of shooting, Adrian Blackmore, said: “There is a widespread view that all our raptor populations are dwindling but this really is not the case. Red kites are now a common sight, despite having been reduced to just 10 pairs in the 1930s. Buzzards too are booming, in common with the vast majority of our birds of prey.

“More work does need to be done for hen harriers but if all the groups involved in the Hen Harrier Recovery Plan work together, we should see an increase in their numbers too. British birds of prey are a real success story.”

For more information, contact Countryside Alliance head of media Charlotte Cooper on 0207 840 9220 or email [email protected]

Notes to editors

• Birds of prey of the UK and their population trends can be found at http://www.countryside-alliance.org/ca/file/Birds_of_Prey_Report_A4_HR_103.pdf
• All the figures quoted above are from the Avian Populations Estimate Panel – http://www.britishbirds.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/APEP3.pdf