Monitoring and conserving Scotland's birds of prey
The Uist Raptor Study Group was formed in 1988 and currently contains eight members. Like other groups in Scotland, it meets twice a year and the local police WLO is invited to attend. The area the group covers runs from Berneray in the Sound of Harris south to Barra Head south of Mingulay. This relatively small area of Scotland contains a diverse range of habitats on the main islands of North & South Uist, Benbecula and Barra & Vatersay, and a plethora of smaller islands some of which hold raptors. The habitats range from coastal sand dunes and the distinctive Hebridean grassland known as machair, through to low-lying bogs and moors, to the higher hills of South Uist which reach just over 600m in altitude. There is however, limited woodland of any sort. The Uists are well known for having a wide range of breeding birds and many of their populations are of national or international importance. This is true of the breeding raptors of the islands. The combination of a wide range of prey, the low intensity land use, and virtually no human persecution, has led to a healthy population of raptors. The absence of large mammal ground predators on the islands means that a number of species can nest on the ground or on small crags, when they would normally nest in trees, buildings or on large cliffs. This means that we have in some places ground nesting buzzards and kestrels.
The individual group members tend not to specialise on any one species, but generally most effort tends to go towards monitoring golden eagles, hen harriers and peregrines. The group is involved in regular national surveys of the main raptor species.
Currently, the Uist Raptor Group area supports around 33 golden eagle home ranges, 40-50prs of hen harrier, 16-20prs of peregrine, 80-90prs of buzzard, c15prs of kestrel, c20prs of merlin, 45-90prs of short-eared owl, 3-5prs of long-eared owl, 7+prs of white-tailed eagle, and 4prs of sparrowhawks.
Chair: Paul Boyer