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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 April, 2004, 08:39 GMT 09:39 UK
Pigeon report 'clears' raptors
Peregrine falcon (picture courtesy of Scottish Natural Heritage)
Peregrine falcons were responsible for a small percentage of deaths
A report has found no evidence that birds of prey cause large scale losses of racing pigeons.

Sparrowhawks in particular had been blamed for killing the birds at lofts and during races.

But the study, funded by Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Homing Union, said they were responsible for fewer than 1% of the disappearances.

The report said more could be done to tackle successful attacks.

The two-year study was carried out by the Central Science Laboratory (CSL) and overseen by a working group chaired by Scottish National Party MSP Alex Neil.

Pigeon
More than 50% of racing pigeons are lost each year
Its aim was to assess the level of raptor attacks on racing pigeons and investigate ways to reduce their impact.

SHU members supplied researchers with data on pigeon losses, recoveries of pigeon rings from peregrine eyries and pigeon carcasses.

The study found that 56% of racing pigeons were reported lost each year.

However, more than 50% of lofts reported no losses to sparrowhawks.

Fewer than 1% of pigeons were reported to have been taken by sparrowhawks.

Mirrors and reflectors

It was estimated that a minimum of 2% of racing pigeons were taken by peregrine falcons.

The report said that a variety of measures were needed to protect racing pigeons.

The research suggested that steps such as using mirrors and reflectors may help reduce the number of pigeons being taken around lofts.

A sparrowhawk
Sparrowhawks had been blamed by some for the losses
The CSL said further research was needed to investigate why so many racing pigeons stray and scatter on race routes.

It also said that further guidelines could be produced to help loft owners in the use of deterrents and the siting and management of pigeon lofts.

SNH deputy chairman Michael Scott, a member of the working group, said: "The Central Science Laboratory has completed an admirable piece of research and has provided a valuable assessment of losses of racing pigeons to a wide range of factors.

"The estimated losses of racing pigeons to raptors appear to be small.

"We note that more research is recommended, notably on the causes of straying and on management measures to minimise pigeon losses around lofts."


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