Raptors cause black grouse decline

The latest edition of the science journal Wildlife Biology includes the results of a four-year study that shows the impact predators can have on the rare black grouse (above).

The study, which was carried out by the independent researchers Gordon and Christine Bowker and assisted by scientists from the Game Conservancy Trust, took place on the Lake Vyrnwy nature reserve in North Wales.

By the end of the study, just one of the 39 full-grown black grouse that was tagged had survived. Sixty-four per cent of the dead birds had been killed by raptors (probably goshawk or peregrine), with the remaining 34 per cent falling prey to foxes.

In some parts of Europe, the black grouse is now extinct, although in northern England, the population has increased by 55 per cent since 1998.

Dr David Baines, The Game Conservancy Trust’s director of uplands research said, ‘We are particularly concerned about the Welsh black grouse population, which may once again be declining following a brief period of recovery. We predict that fewer than 200 males now remain.’

The science journal Wildlife Biology, which published the four-year study, is printed four times a year (March, June, September and December).