Monitoring and conserving Scotland's birds of prey
Raptors in Scotland face many conservation threats, including illegal persecution, habitat change or loss, declining prey populations, windfarms and climate change. The primary purpose of our monitoring work, through the Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme, is to identify species which may be in need of conservation action. The government has a legal obligation to ensure Scottish raptors have a favourable conservation status; our long-term datasets, based on decades of detailed fieldwork, are essential to detect changes in raptor populations over time and to serve as an early-warning indicator when populations are in decline. Our data have also been used by the government to help identify a network of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for internationally important raptors in Scotland, such as golden eagle, hen harrier, osprey, merlin, peregrine, and short-eared owl.
There have been several high-profile conservation projects in recent years, including the reintroduction of the white-tailed eagle and the red kite. Both species were eliminated from Scotland by the early 20th Century, mainly due to persecution. The RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage have worked hard to restore these two species to their former ranges, and Scottish Raptor Study Group members have been closely involved with these efforts. Both species are still in recovery but are bringing in millions of pounds to rural economies as tourists flock to see them (visit our links page to find out about these conservation projects).
Several species (e.g. golden eagle, hen harrier, goshawk, peregrine, red kite ) still face difficulties and again, this is largely due to continuing illegal persecution, despite raptors having full legal protection. Scottish Natural Heritage has commissioned scientific reviews of three species (golden eagle, hen harrier and peregrine) to identify the key constraints and focus attention on resolving the problems. These reviews, called Conservation Framework Reports, have drawn heavily on Scottish Raptor Study Group data. The reports are available for download:
Peregrine Conservation Framework (not yet available)
The common buzzard can be considered a conservation success story in Scotland, having recovered much of its former range in the last 20-30 years after decades of persecution restricted its distribution to parts of the north and west. Despite its recovery, this species remains one of the most heavily persecuted, and the game-shooting industry has persistently called for licences to allow buzzards to be legally culled. The Scottish Raptor Study Group continues to oppose this move and has formulated a conservation policy statement in response:
The Scottish Raptor Study Group supports the total legal protection of all raptors and is firmly opposed to any change in the law and/or derogation from the European Birds Directive that might allow raptor quotas, licensed raptor control and/or translocation or any other lethal or non-lethal interventionist raptor management procedures other than those that in the opinion of the Scottish Raptor Study Group are directed at positive conservation of raptors or (if not so directed) are judged to enhance their conservation.