Grouse Moor Management Practices Proven to Help Stem Curlew Population Decline

Last Updated on: 22nd November 2023, 01:12 pm

The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) has released results of a peer-reviewed study which demonstrates that breeding curlews on UK grouse moors are raising four times more chicks than on similar unmanaged moorland sites.

The research shows that, in addition to maintaining healthy numbers of curlew, grouse moor management can provide a surplus of fledglings potentially aiding species recovery.

Dr Dave Baines, Director of Upland Research and the project’s lead, commented: “This study shows that the provision of suitable habitat alone is insufficient to prevent the decline of the curlew, which is threatened with extinction in many parts of the UK. By providing adequate control of generalist avian and mammalian predators alongside suitable habitat, grouse moor management not only maintains stable numbers of curlew and other waders, but also increases their productivity to the point of generating a surplus.”

The team of scientists surveyed 18 pairs of sites on moorland and moor-edge farmland across North Wales, northern England, the Scottish Borders and the Scottish Highlands over the breeding season. The results showed that twice as many waders, on average four species, were recorded on grouse moors, compared to non-grouse moors, where on average three species were seen.

On grouse moors, it was estimated that two thirds of curlew pairs successfully hatched chicks, compared to just 17% of pairs on non-grouse moors. The study also suggests that without predator control on UK grouse moors, and specifically the control of foxes and corvids, national curlew declines would have been more severe.

The research, funded by the G & K Boyes Charitable Trust, was published in the European Journal of Wildlife Research.

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