A NEW study claims to have revealed the extent of illegal persecution of peregrine falcons which attempt to nest on grouse moors.
The research by the Northern England Raptor Forum and the RSPB study used Google Earth to map the characteristic “strip burning” that is typical of moorland managed for intensive grouse shooting.
This map was then combined with nearly 30 years of nest monitoring information collected by teams of volunteer monitors from raptor groups across the north of England.
Comparisons were made between the fortunes of peregrines breeding on grouse moors with those breeding in other habitats in northern England.
It revealed that breeding success of the grouse moor birds was half that in other habitats, such as other moorland, open country and forested areas.
Dr Arjun Amar, of the FitzPatrick Institute for Ornithology who led the study, said: “I was shocked at just how low the breeding output was on grouse moors. They were significantly less likely to lay eggs or fledge young.
“The few birds that did lay eggs or fledge young on grouse moors did just as well as those breeding off grouse moors, which suggests that a shortage of food supplies can be ruled out. The only logical explanation for these differences is that persecution is rife on many driven grouse moors.”
Paul Irving, chairman of the Northern England Raptor Forum, said: “To people who visit and live in the uplands of northern England, the peregrine should be a familiar bird. However, the guilty few deny the pleasure of many. It’s up to the Government and the police to turn fine words into action. ”
The study found that peregrine populations on grouse moors were not self-sustaining and regional extinction was only prevented by more productive birds nesting in sites away from grouse moors.