The direct and indirect effects of predation by Hen Harriers Circus cyaneus on trends in breeding birds on a Scottish grouse moor.
Two phases of an experimental reduction in management at Langholm Moor in southwest Scotland provided an insight into factors that determined trends in the abundance of moorland birds. In 1992 the historical control of breeding Hen Harriers Circus cyaneus stopped and in 2000 grouse moor management was discontinued. Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria, Lapwing Vanellus vanellus, Curlew Numenius arquata and Red Grouse Lagopus lagopus scoticus declined, whilst Carrion Crow Corvus corone and Snipe Gallinago gallinago increased. Hen Harriers increased from two to 20 breeding females, then declined back to two. Lapwing abundance was positively associated with that of Hen Harriers, and moorland passerines (Skylark Alauda arvensis, Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis and Stonechat Saxicola torquata) were negatively associated. Golden Plover, Lapwing, Curlew, Red Grouse, Skylark and Hen Harrier were more abundant when the moor was managed for grouse, whilst Carrion Crow, a common predator of clutches of ground-nesting birds, increased during the second half when management ceased. Increased Crow numbers, together with an increase in Red Foxes Vulpes vulpes, probably contributed to the observed bird declines.