DNA sampling to help protect raptors in the High Peak and surrounding areas

Far too often birds of prey are the target of persecution, often due to the perceived conflict with game birds, unfortunately that isn’t the only risk they face.

Birds of prey like Peregrine Falcons, Merlin, Sparrowhawk and Goshawks are often illegally taken from the wild. Birds like these can have a high commercial value and cases prove that they are often taken to supply the falconry trade.

All wild birds in the UK are protected by law. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 makes it an offence to kill, injure or take any wild bird, or egg from the wild.

The keeping of birds of prey is legal, provided that they have been registered or bred in captivity, the onus is on the keeper of the birds to provide evidence to prove this.In the case of some rarer species, the keeper must register the bird with the Defra. At present species fitting into this category include Golden Eagle, Goshawk, Marsh Harrier and Red Kite.

Prosecutions have shown the Peregrine Falcon to be a targeted bird for nest robberies, its eggs prized by egg collectors and it’s eggs and young by illegally acting falconers.RSPB data shows that of the 17 probable nest robberies recorded in 2008, 15 of these involved the eggs or chicks of Peregrines being stolen.

One of the tools that is being used to combat this type of illegal activity is the use of DNA profiling, raptor workers working in the Peak District and surrounding  areas have been given training to enable them to take DNA samples from wild raptors.

The process involves trained field workers taking a small sample of DNA scale from the inside of the mouth of young birds at the time of ringing,these are logged with the birds ring number and details of where, when and by whom it was ringed.


Once a brood of birds has been swabbed the samples are sealed inside a tamper proof evidence bag and sent away to be analysed and added to a national database.

This information can then be used in the future as evidence should someone be suspected of taking birds from the wild.

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About Mike Price

A member of Sorby Breck Ringing Group and Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group
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