Hen harrier foraging success in relation to land use in Scotland

S Redpath, A Amar, M Madders, F Leckie, S Thirgood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In the UK, hen harriers (Circus cyaneus) are illegally killed on moorland that is managed for red grouse (Lagopus lagopus scoticus), and they produce fewer young per female on grouse moorland than on either unmanaged moorland or forestry. However, those breeding attempts on grouse moorland that escape nest destruction produce more young than in other land-use classes. One explanation for this difference is that food is more available to harriers on managed moorland than elsewhere. To examine this hypothesis, we compared the capture rates of hunting male harriers on sites across Scotland. Four of these sites were managed for grouse whilst the remaining three consisted of either unmanaged moorland or a mixture of unmanaged moorland and young forestry plantations. We found a significant difference in capture rates, with harriers on managed grouse moorland capturing prey at a greater rate than elsewhere, supporting the idea that prey were more available on grouse moorland. However, there was no difference in strike rates between the land-use classes, suggesting that prey were not necessarily more abundant on grouse moors. Males on unmanaged moorland tended to catch larger prey, though this was insufficient to compensate fully for the reduced capture rates. The improved hunting success on grouse moorland means that this habitat is likely to be more attractive to breeding harriers, thereby increasing the conflict between those interested in maximizing grouse numbers and those interested in conserving rare raptors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-118
Number of pages6
JournalAnimal Conservation
Volume5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2002

Keywords

  • RED GROUSE
  • CIRCUS-CYANEUS
  • RAPTOR PREDATION
  • BREEDING SUCCESS
  • HABITAT
  • MANAGEMENT
  • MOORLAND
  • MOORS
  • NESTS
  • PREY

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