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Last Updated: Monday, 19 December 2005, 00:34 GMT
Action call to save black grouse
Black grouse
The black grouse is one of the rarest game birds in the UK
Action is needed to tackle the decline of the black grouse in Scotland, a conservation charity has warned.

RSPB Scotland said it would be stepping up its efforts in the south of the country to protect numbers of one of Britain's rarest game birds.

Scotland is home to two thirds of the UK's black grouse, but a new survey estimated the number of displaying males fell by 29% over the last decade.

The RSPB wants Scotland to learn from a successful Welsh conservation scheme.

The birds' population has risen dramatically in Wales, where foresters, conservationists and land managers have joined forces.

National survey

Numbers are said to be stable in northern England and there have been signs of recovery in the Perthshire area.

However, the survey estimated that there were only 3,344 displaying males in Scotland this year, down 29% from the first national survey in 1995-96.

Numbers fell by 69% in Lothian and Borders and 49% in Dumfries and Galloway and southern Argyll. No significant changes were reported elsewhere in Scotland.

In Britain as a whole, the total number of displaying males fell by 22% from 6,506 in 1995-96 to 5,078 in 2005.

Falcons blamed

RSPB Scotland director Stuart Housden said: "Our black grouse population has been declining throughout much of the last century and this trend is cause for great concern - but there are measures that can be taken to address the problem."

He said work to create the right habitats for the birds could be funded through grants to landowners.

Forestry Commission Scotland said it was involved in a range of approaches aimed at preserving the species, including grants to encourage landowners to improve biodiversity.

The Game Conservancy Trust said it seemed that managing land for red grouse - with the conservation of heather moorland habitats and the control of predators like foxes, stoats and crows - benefited the black grouse.

However, the RSPB's plans were questioned by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association.

Chairman Alex Hogg said a study carried out on an estate in Wales had suggested that falcons and hawks were "the true culprits".

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15 Dec 04 |  Derbyshire
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20 Apr 04 |  North East Wales
Bid to save black grouse
27 Jul 02 |  Scotland

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