Scotland’s bird population plummets

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By Zoe Keown

SEASONAL Affective Disorder not only affects the human race, it also affects our birds, as new figures suggest that some of Scotland’s favourite species’ are falling prey to the country’s adverse weather conditions.

A new survey conducted by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has revealed that the number of curlews has dropped by 21 per cent in the last year, and between 1995 and 2008 the drop was as high as 53 per cent.

The survey also found that the lapwing population faced a nine per cent decline in the last year, and have witnessed a 27 per cent drop since 1995.

Birds of prey have also witnessed a sharp decline, with the number of kestrels in particular dropping by 64 per cent in the past year.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) attributed the decline of kestrels to harsh winters and what it describes as damaging farming practices.

Bert Burnett, of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association attributes the notable decline on attacks by birds of prey.

He said: “These birds are being heavily predated by an ever increasing number of raptors.

“The association has been warning about the imbalance for years.

“There are solutions to this sorry state of affairs.

“We’ve suggested live trapping and relocation of raptors when the pressure on individual moors becomes too great for other birds, but has always fallen on deaf ears.

“There are no ploughs or heavy rollers damaging populations out there, so farming can’t be blamed for that.”

Paul Stancliffe, a BTO spokesman says that bird of prey could be exasperating the problem for moorland birds.

He said: “If the moorland bird population is depressed and raptors are doing okay that puts pressure on them as well.”

It would seem however that the problem is more a culmination of the weather and birds of prey.

Mr Stancliffe continued: “We have had a couple of wet summers and cold winters, so the population is depressed by that.

“They feed on small rodents, which go into hibernation in extremely cold conditions, so they can’t find them.”

Some birds are however beating the conditions. Golden plovers have been down nine per cent since 1995, but the species remarkably resurged last year increasing by 43 per cent.

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