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Tuesday, 14 May, 2002, 14:47 GMT 15:47 UK
Survey to help rare birds
The effect foxes have on bird numbers will be looked at
A study looking at the effect of foxes, crows and stoats on endangered birds has begun in Northumberland.

The eight-year survey is being carried out on heather moorland in Otterburn by a team of scientists from The Game Conservancy Trust.

Researchers from the independent wildlife charity will attempt to measure the impact of predators on rare birds such as lapwing, golden plover and curlew.

Dr Andrew Hoodless, of The Game Conservancy Trust, said: "Although the densities of some waders within our study area are low, we believe that there is potential for a significant increase within the time of the experiment.

"The current breeding success of the waders is insufficient to maintain stable breeding populations, but this is typical of many moors without gamekeepers."

The experiment comes amid widening recognition of the need to reform the way upland agriculture and land management are practised.

Meadow pipit
The study will concentrate on birds like the meadow pipit

Grazing and heather burning is thought to have a beneficial effect on declining populations of birds, but active control of common predators - such as foxes - is more controversial.

For the first time researchers plan to isolate the effects gamekeepers have on predators, such as foxes.

The key focus will be on golden plover, curlew, snipe, lapwing, meadow pipit, skylark and black grouse.

Researchers also intend to collect data on grey partridge, dipper, common sandpiper, redshank, oystercatcher, wheatear, whinchat, hen harrier and red grouse.

Dr Hoodless added: "The next eight years will show whether predation control can reverse the fortunes of these birds."

See also:

11 May 02 | Wales
Bird lovers receive dawn call
24 Jan 02 | England
Survival hope for rare bird
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