Skimming through the myriad of posts in my blog reader yesterday I came across a post from the ever-watchful guys at the Raptor Persecution Scotland blog that left me cold with anger. A UK government department had announced funding for a research project into the ‘Management of Buzzards to Protect Pheasant poults’ (poults are young Pheasants being reared specifically to be released for shooting).

You could raise an eyebrow that at a time of cuts and austerity measures across a range of environment services and departments to be able to find £375k in support of a non-native species that is reared specifically to be killed anyway is a little astonishing. You could raise both, given that there are 40 million Pheasants released in the UK each year and previous research by the industry’s own science lobby (Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust) had found little evidence of raptor take (0.6% of nearly 500 radio-tagged releases).

What left me incandescent though was that one of the ‘non-lethal’ methods proposed for the trial, funded by my money as a taxpayer, was the destruction of nests either by poking them with a stick or blasting from below with a shotgun.

Common Buzzards are on of those raptor species that when I first started birding were restricted to just one or two pairs in our county in the North of England as a result of many years of heavy persecution by gamekeepers and the effect of pesticides. Over the last 25 years they have recovered to the extent that they may now be Britain’s commonest raptor and breed in most of their former areas. A cause for celebration one would be forgiven for thinking but not apparently for the government and its industry lobbyists and paymasters.

As the research figures above indicates Buzzards may take a small proportion of released birds, a number that pales into insignificance when compared to road traffic kills (or indeed the numbers shot for sport), this cannot and should not be used to justify the destruction of nests of a native species in order to boost profits of a commercial enterprise.

I’m pleased to say that there has been a huge outcry from organisations such as the RSPB as well as individuals using social media such as Twitter and Facebook. DEFRA have responded that ‘it is only a research project’ but a number of individuals have now lodged Freedom of Information Act Requests to get greater visibility of what lies behind this disgraceful project. An e-petition is to be launched and I’ll update this post here with a  link as soon as that is in place. I’d urge all right-minded bird-lovers to support proposals to stop this trial proceeding and ensuring that not a single Buzzard loses its nest in the coming breeding season (2013).

The reality is that gamekeeping organisations in the UK are declaring this as a victory and a first step towards being able to eradicate Buzzards using lethal methods. In the 21st century this is truly outrageous.


Written by Alan
With a high flying career in business management Alan Tilmouth was once described as an irruptive birder. With the arrival of twins to add to his existing two kids in 2007 he grabbed the opportunity to bring some life changes. Business sold, he is now a full-time dad, birder, and blogger. Alan lives in Northumberland England's most northerly county, works part-time as part of the birdguides news team, tinkers with freelance writing and tries to figure out how his DSLR works. You can read his blog here.