Articles Should breeding Eagle Owls in the UK be encouraged?


This page contains 123 reader comments. Click here to view (latest Thu 01/03/07 21:47).

Eagle Owl: Heanor, Derbys (photo: Daniel Martin).

A TV programme this week highlighted the fact that Eagle Owls were breeding in Britain. Over 20 young have been ringed at a nest in North Yorkshire, one of which was recovered this year as a fatality in Shropshire. It has been suggested that there may now be a breeding population of 40 pairs in the UK. Some birdwatchers, such as Roy Dennis, argue that Eagle Owls should be encouraged here, just as they are in places like Sweden where captive-bred birds have been released into the wild. But the RSPB takes a much more cautious view, based on the official assumption that the Eagle Owl has not occurred naturally in this country and therefore must be treated as an alien species. Here, Julian Hughes, RSPB head of species conservation, elaborates on their position:

The RSPB believes that there is little evidence that the Eagle Owl has occurred naturally in the UK in recent centuries, and that the birds currently breeding in northern England are likely to have escaped or been released from captivity.

A dossier on the Eagle Owl was compiled when its status was being assessed by the British Ornithologists' Union Records Committee in 1996. An extensive review revealed around 90 reports of this species since 1684. Eagle Owl has been known in captivity in this country since at least the 17th century. After careful consideration, the Committee concluded unanimously that many of the descriptions (where available) were not adequate to allow the unequivocal elimination of alternative species. Of those where the identification as Eagle Owl was accepted by the Committee, members were equally united in believing that the possibility of escapes, releases and confusion over the provenance of skins could not be dismissed. There was no evidence that this species has occurred in the wild state in Britain and Ireland for over 200 years, and the species was therefore removed from Category B of the British and Irish List.

The Historical Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland (S Holliday 1996) does not mention the Eagle Owl, and neither does England's Birds (English Nature 2005). The Shell Book of British Birds (James Fisher 1996) has two references. Firstly, bones have been found in Norfolk as Pleistocene fossils (500-600,000 years ago). Secondly, there is a reference to records of it as 'possibly native' in the 8th-11th centuries, but nothing more definite.

Efforts to remove the small numbers of Eagle Owls breeding in the UK may be justified, if it can be shown that they are having, or likely to have, a negative impact on native species, whether as prey or competitors. We believe that the departments responsible for coordinating government policy on non-native species in each country within the UK (e.g. Defra in England) should assess the likely impacts and consult interested parties on its suggested response.

Taking a longer view, there is no doubt that eagle owls are spreading in Europe and that truly wild individuals may appear in the UK in the future. If this were to be shown conclusively, then the status of the Eagle Owl in Britain would change (this is analogous to other species such as Collared Doves and Cetti’s Warblers).

For more information on the RSPB's position, please see http://www.rspb.org.uk/policy/species/eagleowl/index.asp

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The information in this article was believed correct at the time of writing. BirdGuides accepts no responsibility for errors, or for any consequences of acting on information in the article. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily shared by BirdGuides Ltd.

hide section Reader comments (123)

I for one consider Eagle owls should be encouraged to breed in the UK in suitable locations. Mind you if the local hills were tall enough I'd be up for condors too...I'm jealous of North Yorkshire and would be delighted for these magnificent birds to breed in Northumberland which is on my doorstep and I'm sure i'm not the only one despite comments of RSPB. Even if a long time age,I have no doubt these birds have bred here in the past despite lack of 'official' records which are so thin on the ground anyway. I'd love the chance to protect a local breeding site. Rock on Bubo Bubo
   Mike Potts, 20/11/05 23:26Report inappropriate post Report 
I am absolutely delighted that Eagle Owls are breeding in the UK, and I think they should be actively encouraged. As even the RSPB acknowledges, the spread of Eagle Owls across Europe is liable to lead to further colonisation of the UK in the near future. This fact alone should render any talk of attempted eradication obsolete.
   D Menzies, 21/11/05 01:10Report inappropriate post Report 
Once more the RSPB decides that it should wipe out "alien" species...this sounds like a repeat of the Ruddy Duck fiasco. What right do the RSPB and DEFRA have to determine which species should live and which should not in the UK?
   Tim Farr, 21/11/05 09:23Report inappropriate post Report 
In my opinion, the RSPB is right to be cautious. Predatory alien species are very damageing to the native species in our natural environment and should be eliminated to give greater protection to struggleing local native bird populations. The Eagle owl is not scarce in Europe accross its range and does not need extra breeding protection with captive bred / escaped falconers birds which those in Yorkshire appear to be. The BBC programme showed that in Belgium the released Eagle owls eat...more more
   Andy Cook, 21/11/05 10:28Report inappropriate post Report 
The RSPB stance on this issue is rightly cautious: it always is. But in the last paragraph we get to the point: The RSPB wants to have it proved "conclusively" that Eagle Owls occur naturally. What would amount to conclusive proof in this instance?
   J G Walshe, 21/11/05 10:34Report inappropriate post Report 
The idea of naturally-colonising Eagle Owls is an attractive one and, as at least one bird has been recorded from a North Sea oil platform , it's more than a possibility. But I suspect that many birders are being swayed by the species' charisma and losing sight of the fact that , just like the grey squirrel, the rabbit or the ruddy duck, the breeding birds in Yorkshire are almost certainly escapees. Unless ringing or DNA can determine that European birds are arriving in Britain, then to be...more more
   Brett Westwood, 21/11/05 10:38Report inappropriate post Report 
The Eagle Owl is a naturally occurring part of the European avifauna and as such there is always a possibility of it occurring and breeding naturally in the UK. The idea of eradication of a European species in this country is ridiculous. Eagle Owl's should be allowed to stay and breed, whether of wild or escaped provenance. If they are feeding on other raptors etc. then this is simply a normal part of nature in action and should not be a reason for persecution. This has echoes of the problems experienced by all birds of prey in this country especially Hen Harriers in recent times.
   duncan fraser, 21/11/05 10:54Report inappropriate post Report 
Well I would love to see them, it may be a way of the birds' getting their own back on the cats. The RSPB make me laugh, the rest of Europe embrace the appearance of Eagle Owls as a breeding species, then along they come and put all sorts of obstacles in the way. There is no proof these birds take healthy livestock. Just look at the Yorks pair, they live almost exclusively on Rabbit. I would also be amazed if Eagle Owl had not occured in Britain before and was probably wiped out along with so many things. I suggest Roy Dennis has it right.
   Nigel Driver, 21/11/05 12:06Report inappropriate post Report 
Although it is a very magnificent bird, and wonderful to see, we need to look at the bigger picture of how its going to fit into our countryside and what effects it may have on other wildlife. although it may have once been a part of our ecosystem does it fit into it now?
   gareth blockley, 21/11/05 12:35Report inappropriate post Report 
I'm not totaly covinced these birds should be encouraged. If there are data to prove that they are having adverse effects on native wildlife, then they should be removed and treated by the authorities in the same was as Ruddy Ducks have been treated. However until such data are available then the birds should be left to their own devices. I suppose the problem with cats taking small birds would be reduced if these owls were to start taking cats, as one escapee in Sheffield did a few years ago!
   Steve Stansfield, 21/11/05 14:17Report inappropriate post Report 
Records from Derbyshire certainly suggest more recent records than "centuries ago" as bones have been recovered from caves. I do not have the specifics, but assuming other Derbyshire birders read this, then I am sure someone will get Mr Frost to comment. If the powers that be want consistency, then will they eradicate Goshawks who certainly predate most below them in the food chain and were almost certainly introduced too? We dont need to comment on Canada Geese and the problem they are...more more
   Daniel C Martin, 21/11/05 14:38Report inappropriate post Report 
As these birds are likely to derive from escapes/deliberate releases they should probably not be encouraged: look at the damage that has been done to native species and habitats when introduced aliens have been allowed to become established in the wild - mink, grey squirrels, domestic cats, hedgehogs on Hebridean islands, Japanese knotweed, ex-pet turtles in ponds and lakes - the list just goes on. IF, on the other hand, it can be proven that these owls have colonised naturally, then they should be left alone. Has there been any DNA studies to try to determine origin? And are the birds now spreading through the near Continent considered to be truly wild or from captive-bred stock? And do Eagle Owls happily cross large bodies of water?
   Jan Datchens, 21/11/05 14:50Report inappropriate post Report 
Eagle Owls are magnificent birds and I would welcome their acceptance as part of the British avifauna. We could certainly do with some in Essex to provide a deterrent to the burgeoning population of Magpies which, unlike the small passerine population in our locality, appear to have had an extremely successful breeding season. Up to six Magpies at a time visited our garden during the spring and very obviously cleaned up on the eggs and young in the small birds nests. And as recently as yesterday there were ten Magpies in a tree in a neighbour's garden. O for an Eagle Owl with a preference for Magpie rather than rabbit!
   Hollis Cloughton, 21/11/05 15:14Report inappropriate post Report 
Yes it is quite likely that these birds have a captive origin - but unless we can *prove* this should we start to eliminate them? If we are going to remove any foreign species from our shores let's start with a known alien - Grey Squirrel. Opening up a public Eagle Owl viewpoint in Yorkshire could help to bring in money that can be channelled to help fund the Grey Squirrel's demise. Hopefully.
   Jeff Higgott, 21/11/05 15:40Report inappropriate post Report 
The question of whether these owls are introduced by man or are genuine is surely irrelevant. The question is, could they naturally occur themselves? The answer is simply yes. It is not unreasonable to assume that firstly, it is a species that has previously resided in the UK, and secondly, vagrants can and do occur. There is no reason why a continental vagrant pair should not breed and establish themselves. The Snowy Owl did previously and it is only a matter of time before they do so...more more
   D Williams, 21/11/05 16:44Report inappropriate post Report 
Great in principle to see this superb bird colonising Britain naturally or otherwise but as the t.v programme points out, in the absence of Rabbits, would you like to see it wipe out your local populations of Hedgehogs, Buzzards or Barn Owls? These species were all identified as prey items at one nest site in Europe.
   Andy Adcock, 21/11/05 18:01Report inappropriate post Report 
Eagle Owl must have been a British breeding bird at some time in the past and for the RSPB to even suggest the eradication of a European breeding species from this country is not acceptable. With the spread of the species across Europe they are bound to arrive eventually anyway. What will the RSPB do then ? What with this and the Ruddy Duck shambles my RSPB membership is hanging in the balance.
   charlie jackson, 21/11/05 18:15Report inappropriate post Report 
I find the comments made by the RSPB really quite perverse,whether the Eagle Owls were originally escaped birds is almost immaterial,they have survived without any aid from human interferance for ten years.Remind me,Little Owl,various pheasant species,White Tailed Eagle and others have been assisted in returning to Britain,what about those non-European escapees Ruddy Duck and Rose-Ringed Parakeet,and what is the monetary cost of trying to re-introduce Great Bustard.Let the Owls survive in peace,time will tell whether it is sustainable,i hope so they are so magnificient and that call is unforgetable,come to Dungeness and reduce the rabbit population,the sooner the better!!
   malcolm mcvail, 21/11/05 18:19Report inappropriate post Report 
Another inconsistent message from the RSPB. They are demanding standards of identification to justify their case which were just not appropriate two centuries or more ago. For example, until recently both Golden and White tailed Eagles were dumped together as one species called the "Erne". The "natural" populations of Eagle Owl are close by and with no barriers to migration . There is also enough evidence that the Eagle Owl has bred sucessfully and sustainably in the UK in the past (whether from migrants or escaped falconry birds) to leave them alone and encourage the expansion of their range.
   Pete Rowberry, 21/11/05 19:27Report inappropriate post Report 
Once again the Royal Society for the Purging of Birds strikes again. The Ruddy Duck debacle has been bad enough! What’s next, the Little Owl?
   John Todd, 21/11/05 19:40Report inappropriate post Report 
I'm not sure why everybody is getting so indignant with the RSPB here. I can't see any mention in their statement saying that they are going to eradicate the Eagle Owl population; they merely say that "efforts to remove the small number of Eagle Owls breeding in the UK may be justified if it can be shown that they are having a negative impact on native species." I for one consider that their caution is rightly justified. The wider picture needs to be considered: what happens when a pair of...more more
   Rob Fray, 21/11/05 19:48Report inappropriate post Report 
No one has yet provided proof that the Eagle Owls in Yorkshire are as a result of escapism or illegal release. If Eagle Owls are spreading on the continent at such a fast rate, then surely it is only a matter of time before they reach us. Eagle Owls in Britain is wonderful news and a fantastic addition to our fauna. If the R.S.P.B do anything to discourage Eagle Owls here, without irrefutable evidence that birds are as a result of escapes or illegal releases they will never get another penny from me.
   Chris Jepson - Brown, 21/11/05 20:00Report inappropriate post Report 
I was disapointed at the R.S.P.B s spokepersons comments in this programe, which boarded on encouragement to disturb these birds breeding attempts. Be they escapees or true immigrants the society is subscribed to by people who want birds protected. If this was not their intention they should issue a statement clarifying their position. As an aside if the comment that upto 40 pairs are breeding, is even close to the truth! Where are all the sight records or are we birders really missing more than we think.
   David Cleal, 21/11/05 20:36Report inappropriate post Report 
Following the program on Sunday, I came across a couple of interesting articles; one may be of interest to Mike Potts: http://www.owlpages.com/news.php?article=171&page=7. Other stories, including this one (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/4206031.stm) suggests that sightings of these birds may be more common than we realise, I have also spoken to someone who claims a recent sighting only a few miles from one in the BBC story. Collating sightings may produce some surprising results. Based on the experience of spreading populations in other European countries, with the potential of suitable habitat within the UK and the large population of small mammals, particularly rabbits, what threat to UK wildlife would these birds pose? With the origin and historical reference of these birds being somewhat dubious, perhaps a pause for thought would be appropriate before condemning such a magnificent bird.
   Sid Meldrum, 21/11/05 21:00Report inappropriate post Report 
If the RSPB are THAT concerned about our native birds then maybe they would like to take on a programme of cat control in this country first. Don't throw stones in glass greenhouses and listen to a 'man that knows' in Roy Dennis. Further info on Roy's work for conservation can be found at www.roydennis.org
   Hugh Harrop, 22/11/05 08:30Report inappropriate post Report 
The RSPB’s statement encourages caution and research. It does not encourage eradication, but notes that removing these birds may be necessary if they are found to, or are considered likely to have a negative effect on the UK’s native fauna. So I think bashing the RSPB for threatening eradication is jumping the gun by a long way. There seems to be little, if any evidence of naturally occurring Eagle Owls in the UK in recent decades - and even if such records were proven, how likely is it...more more
   Dave Gandy, 22/11/05 09:17Report inappropriate post Report 
I read with interest the comments coming from both sides of this debate. My own view is that this species, if my information is correct, inhabits at least half the globe at our latitude. I find it very hard to imagine that in years gone by a country with suitable habitat has been neglected by what seems to be a very adaptable species. Therefore, if we look at the subject of whether eagle owls are an indiginous species that, for some reason, has become extinct within our shores along with many other species, we should be looking at probabilities. It seems very probable to me that the species is natural to this country and therefore a return, however it is achieved, should be welcomed.
   steve hutchinson, 22/11/05 09:56Report inappropriate post Report 
I thought representatives of conservation bodies who spoke in the documentary were by & large unpersuasive, not least when arguing that there may be a serious threat to indigenous birds taken as prey: these were arguments which could equally be used to defend the eradication of hen harrier, for example. Surely logic dictates that Eagle Owls were once native to UK, for reasons given by the splendid Roy Dennis in the programme & elsewhere on this page. As for the argument that 'proper' (ie contemporary, BOU-devised) criteria aren't met by historical accounts... well, durr, of course they aren't! Common sense might prevail over bureaucratic petti-fogging here.
   Richard Boon, 22/11/05 13:24Report inappropriate post Report 
Why stop at Eagle Owls and Ruddy Ducks? Apparently Cormorants are now considered to be vermin by the authoriities so why not have a cull on Great Spotted Woodpeckers as they are having an adverse effect on other woodland species. Come on RSPB lets at least wipe out all the cats before we start on Eagle Owls.
   Andy Hall, 22/11/05 13:43Report inappropriate post Report 
My personal opinion is hands off, let nature takes its course. The program indicated that the owl's main food source was rabbits, which unless people have forgotten, are also an introduced species, and I believe that there are other introduced and pet species that could benefit from a bit of "natural culling". I also find it a bit hypocritical that the RSPB did not demand that the Durham bee-eaters (of a few years ago) be proved to be migrants rather than escapees before providing protection for them. How many cats, dogs, buzzards or livestock have the re-introduced White-tailed eagles taken? Whether the owls are ascapees or arrived naturally, nature should be allowed to determine whether they are fit to survive or not.
   Phil Davey, 22/11/05 13:47Report inappropriate post Report 
Re the comment:
"As an aside if the comment that upto 40 pairs are breeding, is even close to the truth! Where are all the sight records or are we birders really missing more than we think"

Take a look through the 'Escapes and exotica' sections of county bird reports. There's plenty being reported, quite often in or near the seedier parts of big cities. There's even more of them in captivity, as Eagle Owls are the latest fashion item among upmarket thugs, the "thinking thug's rottweiler"
   Michael Frankis, 22/11/05 15:55Report inappropriate post Report 
Following my note, could we just clarify one thing with all those advocating the removal of the Owls - are you prepared to take EXACTLY the same course of action against our Goshawks? I consider these species to hold the nearest comparison - most likely to have been introduced (although occurred here naturally long ago), can sustain its own population now, preys upon squirrels, woodpigeon, corvids , possibly other raptors etc, occurs widely across the near continent etc etc - the list goes on. If you are not, then how can you possibly argue against the owls??
   Daniel C Martin, 22/11/05 15:58Report inappropriate post Report 
"If you are not, then how can you possibly argue against the owls??"
Because there's good evidence that Goshawks occurred here naturally before becoming extinct through persecution. There isn't for Eagle Owls.

High time some more archaeological research was done into their presence / absence here in the past.
   Michael Frankis, 22/11/05 17:21Report inappropriate post Report 
Our part of rural Essex is overrun with breeding buzzards, regularly visited by goshawks and peregrines and with more resident sparrow hawks than you can count, to say nothing of occasional Red Kites 'manipulated' by the RSPB of which I have been a member for decades. If we didn't keep the magpies, jays and crows legally culled on the farms here, there wouldn't be a song bird left. One Eagle Owl here this month, hopefully an escape, dining on poultry.
   M E Willis, 22/11/05 17:56Report inappropriate post Report 
Am I mistaken or did I receive the impression from the TV prog. that the RSPB would not discourage anyone from eleminating the Eagle Owls? What is the aim of the RSPB? Let these magnificent birds alone. May they continue to thrive and I sincerely hope eggers & other thugs don't take the RSPB's implied message to heart. I am not alone in considering whether to rejoin when my subs are due.
   joan fine, 22/11/05 19:40Report inappropriate post Report 
Richard Taylor has been kind enough to copy me in on the excavation evidence form Derbyshire caves in Roy Frosts book. Rather than copy it here, just let me know if you would like more info. I appreciate Michaels comment above, but there is evidence and so my point still holds firm. I for one do not expect any governing body to go after Goshawks and so as far as I am converned that should be the end of the matter regarding their persecution. If the BOU and RSPB would be kind enough to step forward and retract the veiled threat.............
   Daniel C Martin, 22/11/05 20:41Report inappropriate post Report 
High time some more archaeological research was done into their presence / absence here in the past.’ Given that the debate hinges around whether Eagle Owls were ever native I have contacted Dr Derek Yalden, Honorary Reader in Vertebrate Zoology at the University of Manchester and probably the expert on the history of British mammals and birds. These are his thoughts. Like Roy Dennis, he is quite certain that Eagle Owls would have been native to the UK when it was forested and says...more more
   Paul E Castle, 22/11/05 21:33Report inappropriate post Report 
I was one of the many viewers that managed to catch the natural world documentary about the Eagle Owl, and for me, discovering that this species had (re)introduced itself to our countryside, was very exciting news! What i can't understand is the negative response to its/their presence. Yes its a large predator, and yes its capable of killing livestock, domestic pets, and some of our more treasured indigenous species, but isn't it true that some authorities are considering reintroducing...more more
   James Hume, 23/11/05 10:42Report inappropriate post Report 
Further to my email below, and in case you wondered about my saying 'the prog: last Sunday' it was repeated then so the info re EU protection was not at the end of the initial showing. ronnie baker ----- Original Message ----- From: Ronnie Baker To: sightings@birdguides.com Sent: Tuesday, November 22, 2005 5:57 PM Subject: eagle owl prog: I found this to be a first class report. There is no doubt in my mind that whether or not these are escaped birds or from Europe they should be welcomed. For Micheal Leach to show concern that they 'might' take cats may be true, how many thousands of birds do cats take ? No mention of that. Introduced, not on British List therefore not protected, thankfully, at the end of the end of the prog: last Sunday it was made clear that they ARE protected under EU laws, what about grey squirrel, minx, and dare I say 'Ruddy Duck, double standards. Long may Roy Dennis continue with his work on them. Ronnie Baker (Dorset)
   Ronnie Baker, 23/11/05 10:45Report inappropriate post Report 
The 3 'conservationists' have upset a considerable number of people and I believe have damaged the image of the RSPB. They seem to say that eagle owls have not appeared in the UK for several centuries. Perhaps they can tell us all then why the following appears in Bewick's British Birds, Volume 1, page 57 of the 1832 edition: "This bird is sometimes met with in the northern Scottish isles, where it preys upon rabbits and grouse, which are numerous there, but it is very rarely seen in England". He goes on to talk about their eggs and says, "Temminck says they are white", inferring, of course, that Temminck had himself seen such eggs. Later in the 1800s John Gould, the bird man, shows a picture of an eagle owl in his book, which is carrying a rabbit back to its nest. Are we to believe that the RSPB and others do not trust this information? Perhaps it is not 'scientific' enough for them, but surely it is some of the best information available to us about that period in time.
   Paul Lister, 23/11/05 12:17Report inappropriate post Report 
Here we go again - Man playing God with Nature! As if we haven't done enough damage to the environment already. I am fed up with so-called conservation bodies supporting the unnessary destruction of wild birds. Should the RSPB now become the RS'PC'B - Royal Society for the Protection of *Certain* Birds (I'm sure people could think of alternatives for this acronym)? A number of people have withdrawn their membership of this organisation because of their current policies and I will have to...more more
   Andy Booth, 23/11/05 15:32Report inappropriate post Report 
Since my earlier posting I have read all those previous and since, there appears to be no doubt where the feelings of the majority lie, the message to the RSPB et al, is clear, the eagle owl IS here. Leave it alone and let whatever happens, happen.
   Ronnie Baker, 23/11/05 15:42Report inappropriate post Report 
Since a major reason for the negative attitude of the RSPB and BOU towards the Eagle Owl appears to be its absence from the British List, I believe it is worth reviewing its recent history. (1) 1974 - after a thorough and detailed review of all historic records the BOURC placed the Eagle Owl on the British List Category B. They stated that the first documented record was of a wild Eagle Owl shot in 1830 on Sanday, Orkney. (2) Spring 1996 - a pair of Eagle Owls raised 3 young in North Yorkshire. (3) July 1996 - the BOURC removed the Eagle Owl from the British List. I do not know the reason for this major U-turn by the BOURC. Certainly the historic data which the BOURC had found so convincing in 1974 could not have changed. Perhaps the BOU will enlighten us.
   Charles Hanson, 23/11/05 16:27Report inappropriate post Report 
If this is what the RSPB has said it really is unbelievable,talk about double standards,,well folks its open season on Golden Pheasent,Lady Ams,Little Owl,Goshawk, problem is Eagle Owl isnt really a "sexy " bird is it,not like those cute and cuddly Avocets..rather than threatening to detroy them ,they should set up a watchpoint and earn some extra revenue..they may need it when everybody quits their membership!!
   andy pryce, 23/11/05 16:51Report inappropriate post Report 
As an RSPB member for over 50 years I fail to understand where the protection part has gone from the society and I somehow think they have shot their selves in the foot this time. Surely its irrelevant how eagle owls got here we now have them. How is it possible to wipe them out, round them up and send to Sweden? No the only way would be to shoot them and if the RSPB is happy with that surely that makes them no better than the Gamekeepers who still shoot hen harriers on the English moors.
   john potter, 23/11/05 19:19Report inappropriate post Report 
Why don't the RSPB have a "aren't birds brilliant" type manned watchpoint next year at the nest site, there seems to be plenty of interest from the public and the media, this would raise some money that could enable them to find out why all our woodland birds are declining for example.
   nick baker, 23/11/05 23:33Report inappropriate post Report 
If only, If Only these magnificent birds had been re-introduced by the RSPB all would be well. With a new Eagle Owl reserve and lavish hide rapidly created for paying visitors, along with the usual appeals. (What's the going rate for a Military range these days?) The RSPB and others will have to accept the fact that they are here now. This is a bird obviously very much appreciated in Scandinavian countries and after breeding here in England for years I can not understand why they are not listed and given the full protection they will surely need after the programme. Maybe once they expand into Scotland and start taking a brace or two of Grouse or pheasants for breakfast things will change... but very much for the worse I'm afraid. Remember it is the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds...All birds, especially our continually persecuted raptors. Bill Jackson.
   Bill Jackson, 24/11/05 10:57Report inappropriate post Report 
John Olley Hen Harrier Project Officer Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors and Durham Moors. A simple comment from myself is that the N Yorks pair feed mainly on rabbits, thus few problems arise from this pair regarding predation of other moorland species. many raptors such as the Buzzard are continuing to expand which the owls have preyed on in Holland due to the lack of rabbit but also have hedgehog as 25% of their diet it seems to me that the Eagle Owl will find a natural balance through habitat and prey thus i cannot see a problem with this species in the Uk except for the possibility of persecution and scaremongering from people in the TV programme.
   John Olley, 24/11/05 13:38Report inappropriate post Report 
Thanks Paul Castle for Derek Yalden's thoughts. Generally though, a species is only considered native if it was present naturally in Britain subsequent to the last glaciation. It seems the definitve evidence for Eagle Owls subsequent to that is still lacking - perhaps surprising for such a large bird. A mediaeval record could be a falconer's import, but even that is only 'possibly' Eagle Owl.

I don't think deforestation is a realistic reason for extinction; they are found in treeless or nearly treeless areas elsewhere in their range. If they were here, it would be direct persecution that did for them.
   Michael Frankis, 24/11/05 14:43Report inappropriate post Report 
i find it inconceivable that eagle owls did not populate our shores at sometime or other. whether it was 50 or 250 years ago what is the difference? huge efforts have been made to conserve other birds of prey including full scale reintroductions of sea eagle etc so please leave the owls alone. i thought that the comments which virtually encouraged nest predation were bordering on the obscene, the people who carry this out dont need any help from the rspb. british lists and arguments about escapees or introductions just gives commitees reasons to drone on, this is not a debating issue to be won or lost, this is real wildlife going about its daily work of survival and we should help it
   pete downing, 24/11/05 18:48Report inappropriate post Report 
Is the RSPB trying to commit suicide? I, for one, will join the host of others who will withdraw their membership over this splendid bird. How can these so called 'experts' say that this bird does not deserve protection when there are so many other fabulous raptors in this country which are also capable of taking the odd cat? It does seem to be a case of sour grapes because the RSPB did not get in on the act first, as others have indicated. As for it not being native to this country at any time in the past.....are they serious? Let's allow this bird at least a chance to see whether or not it is a survivor, give it British protection as well as the EU. For once, I am grateful we joined!
   Adam Hurlock, 24/11/05 19:04Report inappropriate post Report 
I am bemused by the attitudes of some of the so called "conservation bodies". Do they have irrefutable proof that they have never existed as a free flying species in the UK mainland? Don't think so. The claimants are not old enough. They then look at records, and personally decide which is acceptable and which is not. Again, how do they actually know. They are guessing at it once more. Not so long ago, I sent out some e-mails regarding this very subject. This is one reply which I received...more more
   Malcolm Watson, 24/11/05 19:40Report inappropriate post Report 
Like many who saw this excellent programme, I was surprised and delighted to learn that Eagle Owls have been breeding in England for a number of years. Whilst I understand and appreciate the RSPB’s concerns about the origin of the breeding population, I found Roy Dennis’s arguments far more persuasive. I was, however, horrified when the RSPB’s representative stated that they were probably not protected. Whatever the arguments for or against the re-introduction of Eagle Owls in the UK, it was grossly irresponsible to make such comments in such a public forum. By doing so, effectively he declared ‘open season’ on not only the Eagle Owls themselves, but on all the larger owls, to anyone with a shotgun licence, since size is notoriously hard to judge in the field, even for experienced observers. Jim Milne 24 11 05
   Jim Milne, 24/11/05 19:57Report inappropriate post Report 
with reference to eagle owls,what a great addition to our species list as a breeding bird,I strongly feel that whatever the population it is a combination of avairy bred birds released and of immigrant birds,and as long as its staple food source being rabbits,there should be no alarm,if in some areas it started feeding on our rarer wildlife,ie nesting in a quarry close to a tern or avocet colony,then capture and a cheap one way flight to sweden,where they are welcome could be the answer,I...more more
   les turner, 24/11/05 20:55Report inappropriate post Report 
These situations where a species or race is said to be a threat to another species or race, often by opinion only, and in this case Eagle Owls, have the most awful parallels in human history. Twentieth century genocidal tragedies have resulted from those attitudes. This tiny scale Eagle Owl situation is an exact parallel and the august authorities who expect their words to be taken seriously should perhaps be more careful. Scientific fact does not become so merely by the saying. Eagle Owls are innocent until proven guilty, as any persecuted race should be.
   dave rhodes, 24/11/05 22:02Report inappropriate post Report 
Reading more and more positive comments about this superb bird...I think its best to let the Eagle Owls have the last word...allow them get on with it and do their own thing. They probably have not heard of and are not concerned about all the various committees and experts deciding upon their very future on our shores and like most of us don't care either...so, as long as they manage to survive... why should we be allowed to interfere with what appears to be nature doing its own thing...leave well alone and enjoy them...they are a magnificent addition to our countryside.
   Bill Jackson, 24/11/05 22:09Report inappropriate post Report 
I never thought I'd be quoting Charles St. John to birders, particularly the RSPB and BOU. This man shot more birds and animals in Scotland than, I suggest, a lot of our local custodians of wildlife have ever seen. He tells, in his 'Wild Sports of the Highlands' of the man who gave him a description of an Eagle Owl and refers to it as 'Has almost become extinct in the British Islands, but is still a resident in the mountainous districts of most parts of Europe.' St John was not an easily...more more
   Harry Bickerstaff, 24/11/05 23:11Report inappropriate post Report 
I will also be thinking of ending my subs to the Royal society for the prevention of BIRDS. The BOU experts what do they know, lets get back to basics and look after our Flora & Fauna, never mind about the politics, and as far as Hen Harriers are concerned the RSPB are more concerned about being on the side of the Landowners rather than the BIRDS!!! Bob Gajdus Thu 24/11/05 23:10. Long live EAGLE OWLS.
   B R Gajdus, 24/11/05 23:14Report inappropriate post Report 
I have only seen one Eagle Owl; in Germany. It landed on the castle wall about 20 foot from me. I stepped back,and dropped my bins into the moat. Stunning.Hopefully they will spread, and raise their young on stray cats. Much like Great Horned Owls do here in California. Got my own list of translations of the acronym RSPB,all seem to have STUPID in there. rh
   art higson, 24/11/05 23:17Report inappropriate post Report 
I watched the programme with great interest and wish the Eagle Owls great success, hoping the RSPB keep their hands off them.
   Eric Robinson, 24/11/05 23:54Report inappropriate post Report 
If Julian Hughes is correct that eagle owls are spreading in Europe, then evidence of a negative impact on native species should already exist - if indeed eagle owls have such an impact. Julian, do you have that evidence?
   Hamish Birchall, 25/11/05 08:56Report inappropriate post Report 
Good old RSPB are at it again suggesting DEFRA waste more millions on eradicating yet another species, when there are so many more pressing problems to attend to.In any case it would be a virtually impossible task causing unnecessary suffering, only to find that the bird populates the country naturally in its inevitable expansion from Europe.
   Peter Heath, 25/11/05 08:56Report inappropriate post Report 
Message posted on RSPB website on 24th November - Change of heart perhaps??? http://www.rspb.org.uk/policy/species/eagleowl/index.asp
   L O'Donnell, 25/11/05 09:00Report inappropriate post Report 
I agree with the majority of correspondents. Eagle owls are now wild and it scarcely matters how this happened. It is fatuous to suggest that if they got here naturally they would be acceptable. Is man not a part of nature? Are we to suppose that the RSPB is in favour of extermination of the ring necked parakeets now breeding so successfully in several locations? It seems most likely that they are the progeny of introduced birds. But there is little need to encourage eagle owls - just leave them alone!
   Eric Hutchinson, 25/11/05 09:32Report inappropriate post Report 
I don't see how the position statement on the RSPB website is a change of heart. I took that to be their stance all along. Julian Hughes never suggested eradicating them - just that DEFRA need to monitor the wider impact of these birds in the UK and make a proper assessment. If there is no negative impact then I'll gladly welcome them. Just because one pair eats only rabbits doesn't mean all uk pairs will. The N Yorks site is stuffed full of rabbits so no need to eat anything else. Lets get some proper evidence. I'm with the RSPB on this.
   Matthew Capper, 25/11/05 09:32Report inappropriate post Report 
Response to Matthew Capper: Julian Hughes cited no evidence that the eagle owl has any negative impact anywhere, despite the fact that for some years, as the RSPB acknowledges, the birds have been spreading in Europe. Even if there were some negatives, it would be a question of degree.
   Hamish Birchall, 25/11/05 09:51Report inappropriate post Report 
The RSPB's attitude on the future of the Eagle Owl in the UK sparks of the mindless, irrational and nonsensical political correctness that pervades the state and many large organisations. Roy Dennis spoke with calm rationality in suggesting that the Eagle Owl should be left to get on with its life in this country. A sensible approach and one which should be followed by all right thinking persons. The RSPB officials concerned should doff their political correctness hats and come into the real world.
   Robert Shaw, 25/11/05 09:55Report inappropriate post Report 
If the RSPB decides to support extermination, we should not be surprised. The previous record in turning from bird preservation to supporting bird extermination is well illustrated by the farcical Ruddy Duck saga. The RSPB is now a pseudo-political force (due to it's size) and seems to be in DEFRA's pocket. I have been an RSPB member/supporter for nearly 40 years, but I find their attitude seems to be straying farther from my own views, every year. As far as the Eagle Owl is concerned, where is the difference between this case and the White-tailed Eagle - as I think one of your previous correspondents said, one suspects it is only that the RSPB wasn't involved in the (re-)introduction procedure!
   Tony Snowden, 25/11/05 10:43Report inappropriate post Report 
The RSPB seems unaware of the recent history of the status of the Eagle Owl in Britain. They state on their web site that "there has long been general acceptance that Eagle Owls have not occurred naturally in Britain". This is incorrect. As recently as 1974 the BOURC was so convinced by the evidence that the Eagle Owl was placed on the British List. It was not until 1996 after Eagle Owls, probably of captive origin, started breeding in the wild (Moray and Nairn 1984 and 1985, and North Yorkshire from 1996), and conservationists became concerned, that the BOURC removed the Eagle Owl from the British List. If the BOURC got it so badly wrong in 1974, how can we be confident that they were correct in 1996?
   Jane Hanson, 25/11/05 12:56Report inappropriate post Report 
Alien species??Hello-does the name Mandarin or Ruddy Duck or maybe even Little Owl or Pheasant ring any bells ???
   keith clack, 25/11/05 13:26Report inappropriate post Report 
Rightly or wrongly, and as a general rule, I support the reintroduction of species that have occurred here naturally in the not too distant past. Whilst this may be in doubt in the case of the Eagle Owl, as they occur naturally close by I believe that, as in the case of the Little Owl and Red-Legged Partridge, they are highly unlikely to represent any sort of ecological disaster and should therefore not be molested. As for the likes of grey squirrels, American mink and Ring-necked Parakeets, all from continents thousands of miles away, then in my opinion this is a totally different scenario and I believe that they should go the way of the coypu and the sooner the better.
   alan young, 25/11/05 13:36Report inappropriate post Report 
The Little Owl was introduced here in the 19th century after favourable reports were received from as far afield as Italy regarding its usefulness to farmers and gardeners in helping control pests such as slugs, mice, etc. One possible vice it has stems from a predilection for small birds, which, coincidentally, is something shared by other Italians. On balance the Little Owl has become a great favourite as, I'm sure, its larger cousin would become, especially if it could help control the rabbit population and, perhaps, account for the odd cat.
   Tony Edwards, 25/11/05 13:39Report inappropriate post Report 
Having watched the program in question and also having twiched the Eagle Owls in Maastricht, I was horrified to read and listen to the negative comments surrounding these birds. Including the fact that it is not illegal to kill these birds or steal their eggs because the BOURC dont recognise them! These birds are here, have bread for several years and are still here! I think that makes them British!!! The BOURC must live on another planet if they think that European birds are going to stop short at the Channel just because some "experts" say that they have no business here. Like many others here I may be forced to reconsider my support/membership to the RSPB. With global warming we stand to loose more bird species than we will gain, so lets encourage those that are arriving.
   Douglas McLanaghan, 25/11/05 14:03Report inappropriate post Report 
I was disappointed that the TV programme slanted towards sensationalism painting the eagle owl as some fast breeding monster bird that will chnge the face of the countryside tomorrow. Roy Dennis fortunately balanced some of the more hysterical comments with his cool and thoughtful answers.As for the RSPB person well, shame on you! Talk about lets encourage the mindlesss thugs to nick eggs. Get your act together or you will be 2 members less.
   Keith Barnsley, 25/11/05 14:18Report inappropriate post Report 
Like most of the other commentators I was dismayed at the RSPB's attitude towards this magnificent creature. A species that may have colonised these shores without too much assistance! Even if these birds are escapees wouldn't there be a proportion of the smaller indian subspecies amongst them as the latter seems to be regularly kept in captivity. Taking the RSPB's point of view to its illogical conclusion Goshawks in the UK could be the next species on the list to be irradicated
   Brian Lancastle, 25/11/05 16:43Report inappropriate post Report 
I think at the moment there is insufficient information to be able to judge where the eagle owls are coming from. If the species is colonising naturally from the continent, I would expect there to be more reported sightings from 'wild' areas, whereas a quick look at the Birdguides sightings database shows that most eagle owls are reported from areas close to human habitation and are almost certainly escapes (there has been more than one such bird at large in Hertfordshire in recent years,...more more
   Brian Phillips, 25/11/05 17:44Report inappropriate post Report 
As the RSPB have no evidence whether the birds are escapes or natural colonisers I find their attitude against the birds makes them look both foolish and unscientific. Just what you don't need in a premier conservation body. The birds featured on the TV program were in exactly the right sort of habitat for them and feeding on non native rabbits. May they continue to prosper, which the RSPB may not with yet another baffling decision.
   John S. Clark,, 25/11/05 20:02Report inappropriate post Report 
Any bird that can fly off with a cat or better still its owner cannot be all bad .Where can I find one ?
   John Inglis, 25/11/05 20:16Report inappropriate post Report 
The documentary was good, showing both sides of the coin. The Eagle Owl in my opinion should stay, if they (researchers) have been studying the "beast" they should have some data of effect on other wild species or even domestic species that have been affected by Eagle Owl. There are enough agencies in todays world wasting money - don't jump back on the bandwagon RSPB -take a year off instead - then look at Eagle Owl numbers in UK. PS: Loved the comment about Eagle Owls taking cat & dog owners lol
   ashley, 25/11/05 21:48Report inappropriate post Report 
Eagle Owls breeding in the UK. Fantastic news, at last we have some wild mega fauna to observe and enjoy the lower half the country, and a species that can take up the roll at the top of the food chain controlling all of that nasty vermin that rich landowners (including the RSPB) tell us has to be hunted, shot, gassed, snared, etc. Surprise, surprise the authorities are preparing us for the possible eradication.
   phil rhodes, 26/11/05 16:41Report inappropriate post Report 
I emailed the RSPB following the broadcast and informed them i would no longer be doing any voluntary work for them,and all they could be bothered to do was issue me with their same policy statement they sent you
   John Deakins, 26/11/05 19:10Report inappropriate post Report 
eagle owls in britain fantastic news even if we can never have them accepted on the british list. any diversity in our avifauna is wonderfull and maybe they will cut down the feral cat population and a few tree rats (grey squirrels). the rspb hierachy is only interested in making as much money from their members as possible in order to increase their already bloated salaries. they are losing touch with their members' values if they think that it is ok to kill healthy birds and flatten large areas of wildlife productive land to build plush visitor centres. i will also be cancelling my membership.
   andrew jones, 27/11/05 09:32Report inappropriate post Report 
Well, all i can say is I am shocked at the knee-jerk reaction of the majority of the rest of the respondants. There seems to be a deplorable attitude that it is wrong to even consider the cull of any sort of cute animal, no matter what its effect on the native flora and fauna. Would the respondants really be so up in arms if the animal in queation did not have such a good PR image? To my understanding at no time has the RSPB said they want to cull these birds, but merely that they feel there is the need to *monitor* the situation. What is the problem with this? If they cause no impact, let them get on with it. if they do, then there will be the necessary infomation to take an *informed* opinion, rather than one relying on sentiment and prejudice. So get a grip people, and kudos to the RSPB for having the guts to grasp the nettle. (Name omitted since I work with the public)
   Anonymous, 27/11/05 18:15Report inappropriate post Report 
I am surprised that an 'anonymous' comment was accepted, for someone to express such strong views and who is 'shocked' by the reaction of the majority they should not hide behind anonymity and criticise this 'majority'who have 'stood up to be counted' and put their names to their views.
   Ronnie Baker, 28/11/05 08:36Report inappropriate post Report 
If there is a niche for this amazing raptor then it shoul be allowed to stay and most definately protected. Was little egret native to this country because there are now hundreds in the south west. I don't think the RSPB do much for protection because they could not even protect the lovely bee eaters at Hereford this summer, I think they should get their priorities right and start being consistent for bird protection.
   Sebastian C Baverstock, 28/11/05 09:36Report inappropriate post Report 
In response to all those who have posted supporting the RSPB in this case, some anonymously! I would suggest they get a copy of the broadcast in question and not simply checking the policy statement on their website. It was the completely condescending attitude and total lack of interest in the birds shown by both the member of RSPB and BOU that many people are angry about. Also dismissive of any prior evidence of this birds previous occupancy
   John Deakins, 28/11/05 17:44Report inappropriate post Report 
One question regarding this species must be worth considering; is it not suprising that eagle owls have only recently become established as a breeding bird here. As stated above its has been kept in captivity since the 17th Century, surely it has been escaping centuries. So why now has it began to breed, it must be either reduced persecution, or the fact more have escaped in recent times. The high productivity of the Yorkshire pair suggest that it might only take two birds! So the absence of this species as a breeding bird in this country could soley have been due to persecution. This begs the question have occaisional immigrants failed to establish simply due to persecution. To be on the safe side surely its best to encourage this species and besides its part of the natural ecosystem of Europe.
   Kevin Du Rose, 28/11/05 18:56Report inappropriate post Report 
To those thinking of resignations from the RSPB, I would urge a think about the subject in greater depth ...you might be disappointed with occasional opinions by the body or even with certain policies, but then take a few moments to see the MASSIVE contribution they have made to the fantastic diversity of birdlife and other wildlife in the UK, not only through the large number of fantastic reserves, but also through their wider programs of conservation and awareness programs. Take a walk...more more
   Jos Stratford, 28/11/05 21:04Report inappropriate post Report 
To those who have suggested that the posting from "Anonymous" should be removed, or reported his/her posting as inappropriate: there is no policy (see Help, above) that says opinions can't be expressed anonymously (though we'd prefer it if do you leave your name, and your opinions probably carry more weight if you do). It would be pointless to enforce this anyway, as there's nothing to stop anybody using a plausible but invented name. I have therefore reinstated the posting from "Anonymous".
   Dave Dunford (admin), 28/11/05 22:44
What "Anonymous" says makes absolute sense.

Personally, I'm appalled by the immotive "me, me, me" tone of some of the contributions to this discussion.

It does not matter what you want, there is a laid-down procedure for considering the future of any bird which is of doubtful provenance, and the relevant organisations are following it.

The fact that egrets are now established in the UK is utterly irrelevant to the EO situation - there's just no...more more
   Keith Reeder, 29/11/05 09:08Report inappropriate post Report 
I think it is fantastic to have such magnificent creatures breeding quite happily not more than an hour from urban West Yorkshire. I find it hard to believe that the RSPB would even consider that they are an alien species, this pair are known to have produced 20+ offspring over the last ten years and one would assume that these chicks have matured and flown off to breed elsewhere in the British Isles. The North Yorkshire pair seem very happy feeding off the local rabbit population and would, no doubt, find another source of food should the rabbits disappear. Where does an Eagle Owl nest?---- Anywhere it wants !!. Full protection should be afforded to these birds. Are the RSPB contemplating extermination of the Ring Necked Parakeets infesting the south east to protect the Kentish orchards ?
   David Long, 29/11/05 16:51Report inappropriate post Report 
I'm dismayed by the majority of the comments here which seem to ignore two good scientific practises. Birds should be proven (beyond reasonable doubt) to occur here naturally to be considered British. Introduced animals and birds should be considered to be damaging to the local ecosystems and should be discouraged.
   Mike Pennington, 29/11/05 18:43Report inappropriate post Report 
"I'm dismayed by the majority of the comments here which seem to ignore two good scientific practises. Birds should be proven (beyond reasonable doubt) to occur here naturally to be considered British. Introduced animals and birds should be considered to be damaging to the local ecosystems and should be discouraged." But that's the problem Mike, has the "(beyond reasonable doubt)" stage really been met, or is this a prejudgement of the situation due to the lack of "good scientific...more more
   Malcolm Watson, 29/11/05 19:53Report inappropriate post Report 
What about rose-ringed parakeet? It may now breed in certain parts of the country so as to be self sustaining, but surely that only became wild in Britain as a result of escaped birds. If that can now be listed as a British bird, is there any good reason why EO cannot at least be considered for British status? Potential problems caused by EOs are noted if they become too numerous - but if the parakeet did become too numerous here it too could cause problems - in Sri Lanka it is one of the few birds not to be protected as it is considered an agricultural pest.
   Richard Cowen, 29/11/05 20:53Report inappropriate post Report 
Hi Malcolm,

to pick up on your your question to Mike P: only if the decision makers gave the eagle owl the benefit of the doubt, bowed to popular/populist opinion and "decided" that EO "probably" occured here naturally - given the lack of any compelling evidence to support - would there be a lack of good scientific practice.

In science you can't prove negatives, only positives, so there's no point in expecting the BOU to prove that EO doesn't belong here: all we can reasonably hope for is that someone can prove that they do.

And we're simply not there now.
   Keith Reeder, 30/11/05 08:24Report inappropriate post Report 
Perhaps the RSPB are so against the eagle owls because they can't make any money charging people to see them. They don't breed on an RSPB reserve you see. If they had forced colonisation like capercaille or osprey and could charge the public to marvel at their expertise like they do at Loch Garten or Forest Lodge then I bet they would have a different attitude towards them. As for the owls predating native species and having a negative impact on them - it would seem that they mainly eat rabbits - a non-native species introduced as a food crop for mankind.
   Alex Scott, 30/11/05 09:13Report inappropriate post Report 
It seems unlikely that Eagle Owl would pose as much a threat to our indiginous birds as for instance Ring-necked Parakeet. The RSPB has not posted a page about them. Any connection with the fact that they are garden feeders and members think them 'pretty'. Eagle Owl food needs to be studied to highlight any possible detrimental effects though.
   Tony Quinn, 30/11/05 09:42Report inappropriate post Report 
Should it not be possible to investigate the background of the birds by DNA testing? All that would be needed is samples of feathers etc. from nests of captive birds, European birds and the pair in question. At least it should be possible to show any link to the Eastern subspecies. Presumable there is a comparitavely small gene pool in the captive bred birds which should allow relationship with the Yorkshire birds to be investigated. What is needed is a friendly research lab.
   Steve Brown, 30/11/05 10:34Report inappropriate post Report 
Alex (and everyone else who is still banging on about the RSPB's supposedly hostile stance on the matter, despite the complete clarity with which they've expressed their position),

the RSPB is not "against" eagle owls, nor are any other of the official organisations involved in this!

Have you even read the RSPB statement? - it's at the top of this page, and I would suggest that you do read it.


DNA testing might prove where a bird originated, but not how it got here - it's entirely possible (indeed almost certain) that escaped captive stock comes from birds that originated overseas.
   Keith Reeder, 30/11/05 10:38Report inappropriate post Report 
Few can argue with the RSPB's official statement, but what upset so many people were the comments made by the 'experts' on the TV programme itself.
   Paul Lister, 30/11/05 11:38Report inappropriate post Report 
To those who look back for evidence of Eagle Owls in the UK.

You will not find much prior to the 1700's for the simple reason that the birds would simply be described as an Owl - or a "Hag".

Owls have been misunderstood and mis-represented in the historical records because of society’s superstitions and a lack of understanding of the habits of owls. Owls where also not highly sought after or prized. They where creatures of the night, associates of the devil – and hence...more more
   A Historian & Birder., 30/11/05 13:30Report inappropriate post Report 
Keith, Kather than "banging on" as you put it I was stating what I believe the RSPB are about - charging people to visit their reserves. I do believe that if the eagle owls were breeding on their land they would come off the fence and be happy to charge people to watch them as they do on their reserves all over the country. There is evidence of certain species being vectors for harmful pathogens threatening native wildlife. These species are at large in great numbers in our countryside but are not subject to any form of control. I would like to hear the RSPBs stand on these...
   Alex Scott, 30/11/05 16:15Report inappropriate post Report 
   Anonymous, 30/11/05 19:22Report inappropriate post Report 

the thing is, your general opinion of the RSPB has no relevance to their stance on eagle owls, yet you're using this issue as a platform to complain about something you're miffed about with the RSPB, but which is utterly unrelated to the eagle owl issue.

To the 2nd "Anonymous": precisely what in John Deakin's post are you agreeing with?

And why?

The RSPB has already clarified that they have no agenda where eagle owls are concerned (save monitoring them), yet - long after any belief that the RSPB are out to get these birds has been totally and comprehensively debunked - this discussion continues to generate comments which would only be remotely relevant if members of the RSPB committee were slowly strangling eagle owls before your very eyes!

So - please - what is it you're agreeing with?
   Keith Reeder, 30/11/05 19:47Report inappropriate post Report 
I have heard knee jerk reaction against the Eagle Owls because of fears they will eradicate native owl species. I think, like other conservation concerns (eg wind farms) we need to look to Europe for evidence of the bird's affect in comparitive habitats to the bird faunas to what is actually happening and although there will always be certain mortalities the overall impact is low. At the moment we need to keep an open mind and afford this magnificant bird protection, unless of course it demonstrates a devasting impact that some fear; but I doubt whether this would happen and I expect in twenty years we will all be enjoying them, even members of the BOU.
   Craig Howat, 30/11/05 20:22Report inappropriate post Report 
Alex, I suggest you travel to other countries where the likes of the RSPB are something we dream about ...your opinion of the body is staggering and, without wishing to sound rude, it demonstates an incredible amount of ignorance on your part. Have you visited those reserves that you seem to view as 'money-making machines' ...I presume yes, so I also presume you saw a hell of a lot of birds. You also seem to consider that the RSPB are only interested in birds or reserves that make money ...I would suggest you take a rather deeper look at their activities. The RSPB is, and I say without any hesitation, one of the world's most active and forward thinking conservation bodies in existance and, if UK birdwatcher, there is hell of a lot to be thanking them for. A body of that size will never please everybody all the time, but rather than taking offence over one individual issue, I think you need to step back and look at the bigger picture.
   Jos Stratford, 30/11/05 21:02Report inappropriate post Report 
Some of the recent postings are getting too personal. Please don't go down that route, as we are all only expressing our opinion - that, and nothing else. Some recent postings appear to be getting away from from what was actually said on that TV programme. Forget for one moment the RSPB policy statement (was this before or after the programme?) - the actual representatives on the day said something very different indeed and anyone supporting them perhaps either did not see the programme,...more more
   Paul Lister, 30/11/05 23:58Report inappropriate post Report 
   RICHARD DAWKINS, 01/12/05 09:07Report inappropriate post Report 
I am fully aware of the good that the RSPB do and the difference they could make in other countries. The amount of land they own is reason enough to support them. However, having worked for them and visited their reserves many times I don't think it is unreasonable to question their policies, ethics and morals once ina while. Organisations can become too big and lose sight of the reasons they were set up. I fear that the RSPB is heading down that route and have become more and more geared towards financial success rather than wildlife welfare. My argument concerning eagle owls is that in my opinion they would look at the species in a different light if the owls were breeding on land owned by them and not the MoD. There is no need to get personal just because you don't agree with criticism of the RSPB - they are not above criticism, far from it in fact.
   Alex Scott, 01/12/05 09:53Report inappropriate post Report 
All are of course welcome to their opinions, but the sad fact is the whilst the UK is blessed with one of the best conservation bodies in the world, there is a certain proportion of the population who are only to ready to jump down its throat, purely due to the fact they saw a single TV program in which some individuals expressed an opinion not to their liking. My point is conservation is much more than a single issue and, before these people start shouting from the rooftops, resigning their...more more
   Jos Stratford, 01/12/05 11:39Report inappropriate post Report 
I think what most upsets people, me included, is the horrifying prospect that somebody - possibly somebody from the RSPB itself - might be sent out with a shotgun to try and shoot these magnificent birds. That is surely a very bleak and distressing possibility?
   Robert Chambers, 01/12/05 12:21Report inappropriate post Report 
I've come to the conclusion that there are no winners in this tit for tat exchange of words only losers and would'nt it be nice for all of us just to agree as we are all just trying to help the birds in the long term in any case. Bob
   B R Gajdus, 01/12/05 16:34Report inappropriate post Report 
hi joe stratford its not only 1 issue what about the culling of ruddy duck we use to get lot on my local patch now reduced to 3 birds and as for the bee eaters the rspb could not even stop a fox i went to see these bird the morning after im sure if it was a bird of prey they probably would of shot the fox so what good is the rsbp ???
   richard dawkins, 02/12/05 09:25Report inappropriate post Report 
Its high time we got away from this obsession with birds of prey and owls. Its just a few ball-clutching bloke conservationists looking after their own jobs/consultancies. For gods sake get a grip somewhere else! Stuff the Eagle Owls/Barn Owls/Kites/Ospreys/White-tailed Eagles and lets concentrate on the conservation of species which represent/reflect healthy British habitats and ecosystems Millions of pounds have been spent on these "birds of prey" to boost membership of conservation organisations and individuals incomes whilst other species have been disgracefully neglected over the last thirty years.
   Pete Jennings, 03/12/05 20:44Report inappropriate post Report 
Pete, surely it is an unfortunate but unavoidable mechanism of converation that the 'sexy' species are always the ones that are protected? The Tigers and White-tailled Eagles are easier to gain public support for saving then the Marsh Warblers and the highland grasses, and will therefore recieve more funding. The species that recieve less protection benefit from conservation efforts directed at and public viewing points for Ospreys etc, not only financially, but also through winning the hearts and minds of the public.
   Simon Mitchell, 05/12/05 13:42Report inappropriate post Report 
1, The argument that the Eagle Owl is not a native species is irrelevant. If we accept that argument, what happens to Little Owl, Ruddy Duck, Mandarin Duck, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Canada Goose, Golden Pheasant to name a few. Do we shoot all these birds? They are all accepted as resident breeding species and therefore legally protected. This argument cannot be consistently applied. 2. The RSPB/BTO has chosen to believe that they must be escapees by dismissing past records and sightings....more more
   dave emery, 05/12/05 19:51Report inappropriate post Report 
Simon, of course some species have been easier to sell to the public than others. But it is time to move on to more serious conservation problems making better use of the limited resources available. I dont think that the modern member of the major conservation organisations is quite so susceptible to two forward pointing eyes as it was and has become much more sophisticated and able to appreciate,understand and support real ecological problems without any "sexy"species featuring. To a large extent conservation has been led by marketting managers over the last twenty or so years and by those, as I said before,with a vested interest. As to the Eagle Owls in Britain. They have obviously been introduced and could well have a severely negative effect on other bird species in some areas as the Goshawk has done. It is illegal to introduce non-native species without the necessary licenses and therefore they should be retrapped or if thats not possible then shot.
   Pete Jennings, 05/12/05 20:57Report inappropriate post Report 
'The argument that the Eagle Owl is not a native species is irrelevant.' It's not. It is now illegal to introduce non-native species and steps can be taken to prevent them establihsing. 'If we accept that argument, what happens to Little Owl, Ruddy Duck, Mandarin Duck, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Canada Goose, Golden Pheasant to name a few. Do we shoot all these birds?' All established before the law changed. However, if they are damaging the environment or other species AND it is deemed possible to remove them then it can be done. I'd love to see the park maggot (aka Canada Goose) removed but it isn't practical. 'The RSPB/BTO has chosen to believe that they must be escapees by dismissing past records and sightings. ' It was the BOU and I would refer to the previously mentioned goood scientific practises about reasonable doubt and not being able to prove a negative.
   Mike Pennington, 08/12/05 12:03Report inappropriate post Report 
We definitely need more evidence about the origin of these magnificent birds, and DNA analysis of feathers seems the best way to get some facts.There is no shortage of suitable habitat for the species, and it probably just failed to arrive following the last glacial episode. The problem is ,at what stage does a species become "ordinarily resident " in the UK for section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 ? Do pleistocene fossils count ? If they do, then one could make a case for introducing Hyenas . The comparison with Goshawks andCapercaillie is interesting, but both species were native, then exterminated.A better comparison would be Little Owl, which never was native toBritain.Its introduction was very controversial in the 19th Century, and would not be permitted today under current legislation.Despite doomladen predictions, the Little Owl has settled into its ecological niche.Possibly the same might be true of Eagle Owl one day ? Ray Eades
   Ray Eades, 18/12/05 11:15Report inappropriate post Report 
i was very sad to hear that someone had shot and killed one of the Eagle Owls in Yorks.why and for what reason,just an accident or something more sinister,or was it mistaken for a Ruddy Duck,is there any more upto information
   MALCOLM MCVAIL, 31/01/06 11:53Report inappropriate post Report 
Our infomation is that the situation is less clear-cut than some stories doing the rounds would have you believe (including some press reports). We're told (by a colleague of the person who carried out the autopsy): "there is virtually no evidence that the owl was "shot dead" at all. The bird, in fact, only contained 2 shot pellets, and these were embedded in the pectoral muscles where they would do little harm. They could have been there for years, as many birds carry a few shot with no ill effect after a rogue pot-shot. Furthermore, the body was in such a bad state of decomposition that the cause of death could not actually be established. Seeing as the bird was at least 9 years old, there are other just as likely options: old age, illness etc."
   Dave Dunford (admin), 31/01/06 12:41
I agree with certain statements made in these posts but let's not use them as bullets to shoot at organisations like the RSPB. We all have different opinions but let's not lose site of why we are all looking at this web site "The Birds". Of course the RSPB are going to try and make money (what wildlife conservation organisation isn't !!!) , focus on the good work they have done with that money both here and abroad. I do not agree with everything the RSPB say or do but we live in a society that encourages free speech, try listening to other peoples point of view and give contstructive criticism, we aren't always going to agree but somewhere down the line we may just come up with a suitable compromise and maybe help the birds we are argueing about on the way. Personaly I would love to see more Eagle Owls in the Uk and will listen eagerly for any news of them spreading. Keep focused on why we have these opinions, because we are ALL interested in the birds, John
   John Molloy, 31/03/06 20:22Report inappropriate post Report 
I Agree With Every Encouragement To Accept The Breeding Of This Magnificent Raptor In The UK, As In My Opinion Its Not Much Different Than Any Other Of This Specie. I Know There Is Concern As To What Woul'd Be Taken In Its Feeding Habits, But From What I Have Read About And Seen On Film, Its Main Souce Of Food Is Rabbit, And We All Know At What Rate They Breed, And I Personaly Will Help The RSPB In any Way I Can And Ask Every Body To Be In The Same Frame Of Mind. Malcolm Richings
   Malcolm Richings, 01/03/07 21:47Report inappropriate post Report 

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