Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative to close


The Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative is to close, with differing views among the group's stakeholders and continued cases of persecution within the region cited as the reasons why.

The National Park Authority set up the Initiative in 2011 and said it was 'no longer being able to deliver meaningful change'. The Initiative's goal was for populations of the region's key birds of prey to be returned to levels last seen during the 1990s, plus the re-establishment of Hen Harrier as a regularly breeding species.

Common Buzzard that was found dead in the Peak District in 2020. It was found to have been shot (RSPB).

Despite more than a decade of the Initiative, which included representatives from the landowning and gamekeeping community, experienced raptor surveyors, conservation groups, the police and other bodies, populations of many of the key species have not increased at the rates initially hoped for with some seeing no improvement at all. Hen Harriers have returned to the area, but successful breeding remains limited.

Those involved in the annual surveying of raptors within the study area – largely comprising the National Park's 'Dark Peak' uplands, have recently stated they no longer felt they could continue supporting the group. The RSPB stepped down as a member of the Initiative in 2018.

Although progress has been seen with some species including Northern Goshawk, and with the Initiative acknowledging that other species' population changes appear to be mirroring those of wider UK trends, direct persecution has remained a factor alongside the Initiative's decade-long existence.

Incidents of shooting, poisoning, trapping, nest destruction or the disappearance of satellite-tracked birds active within the Peak District have featured in every year of the Initiative's monitoring.

The National Park Authority believes that until these illegal activities are tackled, meaningful progress towards population increases in key species will not be possible.

Phil Mulligan, chief executive of the Peak District National Park Authority said: "It is with regret that we are closing the Initiative after more than a decade of endeavours to safeguard our charismatic birds of prey that have a rightful place here in the National Park.

"The fact that the work of the Initiative has failed to reflect those target populations of some 30 years ago remains a cause for real concern, and it is without question that illegal persecution targeted towards some of these species is one factor behind this stuttering progress.

"I would like to extend my thanks to those who have put their time, energies and passion into the painstaking study, sharing of information and analysis of our raptor populations during the Initiative's existence, but we must now look at alternative ways to ensure our birds of prey have a future in the Peak District – free from the risk of illegal actions."