We monitor raptors to enable the collation of long-term data sets which when used alongside environmental data can help us understand the cause of any changes in populations and to help identify which species may be in need of conservation action to help support the legal obligations of the government.
National and international laws to protect wildlife and habitats require assessments of the conservation status of birds of prey (along with other animals and plant species).
As top predators, raptors are often the first species to be affected by a range of environmental pressures, such as habitat availability and quality, prey populations, pollutants and human disturbance. Raptors can provide a cost-effective and sensitive means of detecting environmental change, as was so successfully demonstrated through pioneering research on the response of birds of prey to organochlorines in the environment.
Although the prospects for many birds of prey in the UK are improving, in some areas the populations are depressed or even declining despite the availability of excellent habitat and prey availability.
All birds of prey in the UK enjoy full legal protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Despite this robust legal protection, in some areas persecution remains a major problem. This illegal persecution is strongly correlated with land managed for driven grouse shooting.
In 2006 The Dark Peak was the subject of an RSPB campaign Peak Malpractice unfortunately this has done little to halt the decline of some of the areas breeding raptors.
On a much brighter note 2010 has seen Five leading land management and conservation organisations in the Peak District National Park get together in a bid to boost the fortunes of birds of prey in the Dark Peak. More information can be read here