Raptors and Red Grouse: Conservation conflicts and management solutions

S Thirgood, S Redpath, I Newton, P Hudson

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

110 Citations (Scopus)


Recovering predator populations may present problems for conservationists if their prey are of economic or conservation value. We address this issue by examining the conflict between raptor conservation and management of Red Grouse (Lagopus l. scoticus) in Britain. Heather moorland is a distinctive habitat that supports an important assemblage of breeding birds. Large areas of moorland are managed by private landowners for shooting grouse. Although grouse shooting benefits conservation by retaining heather moorland, it is currently unclear whether grouse management directly benefits other upland birds. Human persecution has greatly restricted the range and abundance of most raptor species in Britain. Following the introduction of bird protection laws, the decline in gamekeeping, and the restriction of organochlorine pesticides, raptor populations have started to recover. Persecution of raptors on grouse moors is widespread and limits the range and abundance of Hen Harriers (Circus cyaneus), Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus) and Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos). In some circumstances, raptor predation can reduce both the breeding density and productivity of Red Grouse. Limitation of grouse populations through raptor predation is most likely to occur where raptors are at high density because of the abundance of alternative prey, and grouse are at low density either because of poor management or the cyclic nature of some grouse populations. In the long term, habitat management may reduce densities of alternative prey, leading to reductions in raptor densities and their predation on grouse. More active intervention may be required, however, if grouse moors are to remain viable in the short-term. Current research is focused on manipulating harrier diet through diversionary feeding. Complementary research is needed to investigate methods to reduce raptor numbers locally while ensuring their national status.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-104
Number of pages10
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2000


  • harrier circus-cyaneus
  • habitat associations
  • supplemental food
  • heather moorland
  • breesing success
  • South Pennines
  • golden eagles
  • hen harriers
  • Scotland
  • populations

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