As predators at the top of the food chain, birds of prey will always be relatively uncommon. Some species are at their limit of their range, so there are only a few pairs in the UK. However, the population of many species is down because intensive farming has reduced the prey base, and habitat loss has also affected foraging areas and breeding sites for prey species. Breeding failure, variously due to bad weather or lack of food, inter-specific competition and persecution have also contributed.
Persecution increased dramatically in the nineteenth century, and along with egg collection, drove several species to, or near to extinction within the UK before the second World War.
In the three decades after, persistent organochlorine pesticides accumulated in the food chain and led to widespread egg failure among peregrines and sparrow-hawks. The total ban on those pesticides in 1982, and a reduction in persecution, has allowed bird of prey numbers to recover in recent years but they are still short of their full potential. Kestrel numbers have recently declined.
The population and range of some species, notably the red kite and white-tailed or sea eagle, have been boosted by reintroductions. By the mid 1980’s there were fewer than 100 pairs of red kites, all restricted to mid Wales; now there are more than 1000 pairs, found widely around the UK.
Although still the subject of persecution, buzzards have increased and expanded their range. They are now one of our most common bird of prey.
Here at the centre we are passionate to share with you some of our native species and help learn about their habitats and what we may all do to contribute in some way to conservation.
We have bird boxes, areas of specific habitats within our land and encourage ringing of wild species such as swallows and also help educate falconers and land owners about the grey partridge.