Raptors and grouse: a conflict in the uplands?

Author Thirgood, S.J. & Redpath, S.M.
Citation Thirgood, S.J. & Redpath, S.M. (1999). Raptors and grouse: a conflict in the uplands?. In: Adams, N.J. & Slotow, R.H. (eds) Proceedings of the 22nd International Ornithological Congress: 2125-2129. Birdlife South Africa, Johannesburg.


Heather moorland is a distinctive habitat which supports an internationally important assemblage of breeding birds. Large areas of heather moorland are managed by private landowners for grouse shooting and this is associated with lower rates of heather loss. There is currently little evidence to support or refute the hypothesis that habitat management and predator control associated with grouse shooting is beneficial to non-game species. Birds of prey are an important component of moorland biodiversity but are subject to persecution on grouse moors. Current illegal persecution limits the distribution and abundance of hen harriers and possibly other raptor species. Under some circumstances predation by harriers and peregrines can reduce both the breeding density of grouse and the post-breeding numbers available for shooting. This is most likely to occur when raptors are at high density because of the abundance of alternative prey and grouse are at low density. Under these circumstances grouse moors may be economically unviable. Habitat management on grouse moors may reduce the densities of alternative prey and raptors but could take decades to achieve significant results. In the meantime, intervention may be required if grouse moors are to remain viable economically without illegal raptor persecution. A range of options are discussed.