The results of the 2014 national Peregrine Falcon breeding survey have been published in the BTO’s journal, Bird Study, providing an up to date population estimate for the country.
The breeding population of Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus in the United Kingdom, Isle of Man and Channel Islands in 2014 M. W. Wilson, D E Balmer et al
Members of the Northern England Raptor Forum made a significant contribution to the original survey through voluntary time spent monitoring specific sites and being allocated “random squares”.
The report estimates the overall population in 2014 to be 1769 pairs, an increase of 22% from the last major survey in 2002. This outwardly encouraging result does however mask an unwelcome but not unexpected contrast in fortunes. Populations in lowland regions in England have shown a dramatic recovery which is indeed a real success story in the post-pesticides era. Sadly those in several upland regions have exhibited worrying declines.
This gap is stark and continues to grow. The report attributes the demise of upland populations to possible decreases in prey availability in some regions and to known, illegal killing and deliberate disturbance especially in upland areas where the land use is predominantly for driven grouse shooting. The results support earlier published studies including Amar et al (Ref 1) which demonstrated a reduction in site occupancy and breeding success from eyries close to managed grouse moors. Click here to read the abstract.
The situation in the uplands of northern England is perhaps best demonstrated by summarising those results from the survey which specifically covered the EU designated Special Protection Areas (SPAs).
In these 3 major SPAs only 4 nests from at least 24 pairs holding territory were known to be successful. This position falls well short of the levels expected from the citations when the SPAs were originally designated. It is clear that the present provisions for Peregrine within our SPAs are wholly insufficient. SPAs are protected under EU Directives and the survey results expose serious infractions. The UK government needs to take urgent action to restore the populations of Peregrine and other threatened raptors to a favourable status within our supposedly most protected landscape areas. The situation of course extends to most upland areas in northern England.
The NERF Annual Reports have documented examples of Peregrines having been the direct target of illegal shootings and poisonings in recent years.
9th March 2018
REF 1 Amar et al . “Linking nest histories, remotely sensed land use data and wildlife crime records to explore the impact of grouse moor management on peregrine falcon populations”. Journal of Biol. Conservation . 145: 86–94.