Page last updated at 23:02 GMT, Wednesday, 6 August 2008 00:02 UK

Raptors' reputation 'put to rest'

Hen harriers
The study looked at the impact of an increase in the number of hen harriers on the south of Scotland moor

Conservationists have claimed new research shows that rising numbers of birds of prey need not "spell disaster" for other threatened species.

RSPB Scotland said the study of hen harriers at Langholm Moor showed they could "live together" with waders.

The analysis, carried out between 1992 and 1999, shows some species flourished despite the rise in raptor numbers.

Research biologist Dr Arjun Amar said it "laid to rest" the idea hen harriers had wiped out other types of bird.

These analyses lay to rest the idea that letting hen harrier numbers increase at Langholm meant that other species like curlew, lapwing and golden plover were wiped out
Dr Arjun Amar
RSPB Scotland

The study was carried out by scientists at RSPB Scotland, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Macaulay Institute and the Aberdeen Centre for Environmental Sustainability.

It found that hen harriers in the area had increased from two breeding females in 1992 to a maximum of 20 five years later.

The number of peregrine falcons also increased.

By 1999, red grouse numbers in the area had fallen to a level where grouse shooting was considered unviable and ceased.

However, it had also been claimed that other species - particularly waders - had been affected.

The new research now shows numbers of curlew and lapwing actually increased during the period studied.

It is also claimed that although golden plover numbers declined this could not be attributed to the hen harriers.

The study did show a fall in their principal prey, meadow pipits.

Population rise

Dr Amar said the results disproved what had been claimed in the past.

"These analyses lay to rest the idea that letting hen harrier numbers increase at Langholm meant that other species like curlew, lapwing and golden plover were wiped out," he said.

"On the contrary, populations of some of these species actually rose."

Prof Des Thompson, of Scottish Natural Heritage, said the evidence in the research was very significant.

He said: "This robust science, building on the other important scientific work on Langholm in the 1990s, provides solid evidence that harriers were not implicated in changes in number of waders."

Langholm Moor is currently the site of a major conservation project.

It hopes to find ways to allow birds of prey to flourish while at the same time running an economically viable grouse shoot.


SEE ALSO
Moor project 'to protect raptors'
20 Sep 07 |  South of Scotland
Crimes against wild birds go up
11 Sep 07 |  England
'Glorious 13th' for grouse season
13 Aug 07 |  Scotland
Grouse grant aims to boost birds
11 Jun 07 |  South of Scotland
Action call to save black grouse
19 Dec 05 |  Scotland

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