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Why is the RSPB SO against eagle-owls? (1 Viewer)

PYRTLE

Old Berkshire Boy
This short extract from a 2019 review by John Marchant of a Poyser title, published last year - The European Eagle Owl....

"Disputed estimates of 40 (and 10) breeding pairs in Britain are repeated here but alongside a discussion of the rumours and scanty data on which such numbers are based, and pointing out the lack of clear evidence that any wild birds are involved. Of particular relevance to Britain is a discussion of interspecific interactions and the negative effect this super-predator can have on smaller birds of prey".

Countering this I've found some reference of a bird reported in Norfolk a few years ago that had isotope material suggesting it originated from the near Continent. However, it could well have related to a bird " taken " from the wild and transported to the UK, where it escaped or was released.

As yet, I have not managed to infiltrate the RSPB website to find out their press releases on the " proposed culling ", apart from an extract from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust via Sir Ian Botham! I'm not confident on the background of the content at this time.
 
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THE_FERN

Well-known member
There has been extensive research on what they eat in the Dutch/German border region where I live: an article in Dutch with a short summary in English can be found here: https://oehoewerkgroep.nl/_files/200004062-ae893af828/LIM833-1_dieet.pdf
The main interest will be the bilingual table on page 101.
Pheasant is high on the list (and Partridge, which is almost impossible to find, amazingly so) - and so will be Red and Black Grouse on the moors. I think the RSPB are making a politically wise decision here.

Hmm maybe. But highest are, apart from hedgehogs, things people probably can't wait to see go: in order woodpigeon, feral pigeon and brown rat. Guess I always wondered what eats corvids: now I know.

But folks the answer's clear: introduce them to central London. If they like crows they might even start going for parakeets!

[Edit: ...this super-predator... Interesting that mammal super-predators are now generally seen as important for ecosystem "health" (whatever that means) and certainly for high species richness]
 
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Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
There has been extensive research on what they eat ...
Pheasant is high on the list (and Partridge, which is almost impossible to find, amazingly so) - and so will be Red and Black Grouse on the moors. I think the RSPB are making a politically wise decision here.

quid pro quo for a moratorium on Hen Harriers?
 

jurek

Well-known member
Of particular relevance to Britain is a discussion of interspecific interactions and the negative effect this super-predator can have on smaller birds of prey".

Although EO regularly hunt birds of prey, they coexist with populations of rare birds of prey in 1000s of places in Europe. A serious reference should present it, rather than propose 'a discussion'.

I indeed think that invoking a 'discussion' what EO might do in Britain in absence of EOs is an attempt of marooning the case. And an example of prejudice against predators.

Countering this I've found some reference of a bird reported in Norfolk a few years ago that had isotope material suggesting it originated from the near Continent. However, it could well have related to a bird " taken " from the wild and transported to the UK, where it escaped or was released.

Can you find that one? Import of falconry birds is registered, so it would be easy to check whether any EO were imported. I think the scenario of a falconry EO imported from the Continent and released is highly unlikely, because EO is already relatively common and readily bred in the UK collections.
 
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PYRTLE

Old Berkshire Boy
I indeed think that invoking a 'discussion' what EO might do in Britain in absence of EOs is an attempt of marooning the case. And an example of prejudice against predators.

Can you find that one? Import of falconry birds is registered, so it would be easy to check whether any EO were imported. I think the scenario of a falconry EO imported from the Continent and released is highly unlikely, because EO is already relatively common and readily bred in the UK collections.

I believe this was done at the time of the sighting and sample. Also there were not as stringent controls at that time and illegal trading of wild birds perhaps occuring more frequently. As I mentioned, the escape scenario is very plausible, if not intentional release.

This statement came from an experienced representative connected to the BTO, and was similar in context to a quote from Dr. Mark Avery during his time at the RSPB..... maintaining a watching brief, so to speak. I hardly think either of these organisations have any corporate or personal prejudice against predators.
 
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G

Gleb Berloff

Guest
I have to agree with jurek here, these birds coexist with thousands of raptors. Reintroduction should be undertaken, but not in places where there is an endangered specie, but I also wouldn't touch the Forest of Bowland eagle owls. They have as much a right to live because this was once a native species which died out 2,000 years ago, but yes they are powerful and extremely dangerous to most raptors. As with all reintroductions, it must be carefully considered where to bring them back.
Like I said, Thetford Forest may have hedgehogs but it also has tonnes of rabbits and deer which I think they are more likely to kill.
Regardless the eagle-owl is back, and it should not be culled because of prejudice, which I have seen a few times. The notion that it will kill hedgehogs is hardly a context to allow them to thrive and reintroduce them. Badgers have almost eradicated hedgehogs from Cambridge- should they be culled as well?
The prejudice beavers faced was astonishing- having harmless animals culled and still under threat today. And people seem to be too terrified of having hedgehogs killed a bit in few places than a genuinely native animal being brought back. No amount of eagle-owls will ever decimate all hedgehogs in TF, especially with so much deer and fox there. In fact, do fox eat hedgehogs? Eagle-owls might be able to solve that problem
 

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
. ...As with all reintroductions, it must be carefully considered where to bring them back.
Like I said, Thetford Forest may have hedgehogs but it also has tonnes of rabbits and deer which I think they are more likely to kill
... No amount of eagle-owls will ever decimate all hedgehogs in TF, especially with so much deer and fox there. In fact, do fox eat hedgehogs? Eagle-owls might be able to solve that problem

Its already been explained to you why Thetford Forest would be a bad choice for an EO ‘introduction’.

No one knows why Hedgehog populations are declining so much (but it’s less likely to do with badgers as you suggest (East Anglia has a very low density) but rather habitat fragmentation and decline of beetle populations)
Foxes have also declined by 45% from 1996-2016 and were always low in density in Norfolk anyway and this is likely due to the crash in rabbit populations. There are not ‘tonnes’ of rabbits in the Brecks, they have been decimated in recent years by a hemorrhagic fever which is now spreading to Brown Hares which could be facing potential extinction as a consequence. If Hedgehogs continue to decline at the rate they have been, they too are threatened with extinction within the next twenty years.

As far as introducing predator species to an already fragile ecosystem:

What you fail to understand about ecosystems is that there are Ecological synergies where prey and predator species have developed over historical relationships to adapt and counter-adapt to create a finely tuned balance in population dynamics.

This is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the potential impact of the reintroduction of keystone species

https://systemsinnovation.io/ecological-synergies-articles/

You really need to do some fact checking before posting such poorly researched arguments.
 
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SimonLS

Well-known member
Here. I might have jumped to an early conclusion, but badgers are decimating them pretty fast, and I haven't seen them for a long time:
http://www.nathistcam.org.uk/july-sightings-2020/

"Hedgehogs have been reported from Chesterton (June), where there seems to be a flourishing population, and also from Highsett (Mary). In Trumpington Mo sent me night camera pictures of both Hedgehog and Badger in her garden. Alas, one of her neighbours found three dead hedgehogs a few days later. This confirms our suspicions that these two species cannot coexist in the city."

It seems hedgehogs are flourishing in parts of Cambridge according to your reference. As for the 3 dead hedgehogs found 3 days after the badger was seen, is there any proof that a badger was even responsible?

Even if one was, that link is hardly proof of badgers decimating the hedgehog population.
 

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
It seems hedgehogs are flourishing in parts of Cambridge according to your reference. As for the 3 dead hedgehogs found 3 days after the badger was seen, is there any proof that a badger was responsible?

In fact it’s very possible they succumbed to a parasitic infection or secondary poisoning from eating slugs for example. Hedgehogs can succumb to all sorts of pathogens some of which are major causes of fatality.

https://www.wildlifeonline.me.uk/animals/article/european-hedgehog-mortality-parasites-diseases

Fly Strike is very common as is Lungworm, both of which can be fatal. There are a myriad of potentially fatal bacterial infections hedgehogs can get from sharing feeding stations, or they can die from eating contaminated food or eating from human provided food sources that only provide a high fat diet such as meal worms or cat food. Some people still give them milk to which they have lactose intolerance with potentially fatal consequences. The small hedgehog showing as being ‘doomed’ looks very underweight imo (it’s rear looks pointed and this time of year, they should look nice and rounded). It is also not unusual for all the hoglets in one litter and the adults to be affected by lungworm at the same time, so although one can not rule out they died from badger attacks and for some reason were not eaten, they just as easily could have died from other causes.

There is also no evidence badger predation is the cause of overall hedgehog decline (despite some localised populations doing well)- in East Anglia where there is a low badger density, notwithstanding localised pockets of thriving populations, rural hedgehogs are still declining. https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/predators/
 
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King Edward

Well-known member
There is also no evidence badger predation is the cause of overall hedgehog decline (despite some localised populations doing well)- in East Anglia where there is a low badger density, notwithstanding localised pockets of thriving populations, rural hedgehogs are still declining. https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/predators/
I don't think many people would claim that badgers are the only cause of hedgehog decline, but there's no doubt that high badger numbers will severely suppress the hedgehog population. This is especially the case in areas such as the west and south-west with large areas of pasture - badger numbers in the rural areas are high and hedgehogs are extremely scarce. Hedgehogs can survive in refuge areas such as towns and villages, but obviously there are other threats there such as road mortality and habitat fragmentation.

Hedgehog numbers have historically been a lot higher in eastern England and arable-dominated areas where badgers are much less common. I don't know if badgers have increased much in these regions but it makes sense that other factors will be causing hedgehog declines in these areas.
 

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
I don't think many people would claim that badgers are the only cause of hedgehog decline, but there's no doubt that high badger numbers will severely suppress the hedgehog population. This is especially the case in areas such as the west and south-west with large areas of pasture - badger numbers in the rural areas are high and hedgehogs are extremely scarce. Hedgehogs can survive in refuge areas such as towns and villages, but obviously there are other threats there such as road mortality and habitat fragmentation.

Hedgehog numbers have historically been a lot higher in eastern England and arable-dominated areas where badgers are much less common. I don't know if badgers have increased much in these regions but it makes sense that other factors will be causing hedgehog declines in these areas.

I agree with this (I was responding more to the hyperbolic statement above saying ‘badgers had decimated the hedgehog population’ ) but I would also just add that Hedgehogs will tend to avoid areas of badger density also which might account for some of the low numbers in high density areas and while populations may be suppressed locally, I don’t think there’s any evidence this is the main driver of decline, nationally so we agree on that. (The pop.of badgers in E Anglia may have increased slightly in some areas but it’s still largely absent from the fens and Broads)

More to the point of the thread, there would be good case if it ever came to it, not to reintroduce badgers into an area where Hedgehogs (within the context of overall national decline) are thriving and a good example of the need to evaluate the local ecosystem for such vulnerabilities of any prey species before selecting reintroduction sites for release of predator species.
 

dantheman

Bah humbug
but I would also just add that Hedgehogs will tend to avoid areas of badger density also which might account for some of the low numbers in high density areas and while populations may be suppressed locally,

Suspect one way they avoid areas of high badger density is by being eaten? ... ;) Or do they actively avoid by scent etc?
 

King Edward

Well-known member
Suspect one way they avoid areas of high badger density is by being eaten? ... ;) Or do they actively avoid by scent etc?
Hedgehogs will actively avoid areas with high badger numbers. This can have knock on effects by reducing their ability to forage and to travel between safer areas.

This paper is worth looking at: Abundance of hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) in relation to the density and abundance of badgers (Meles meles)
Furthermore, hedgehog numbers were negatively correlated with badger main sett density (an index of badger abundance). This relationship predicted that hedgehogs would be excluded from rural habitats that support more than 0.23 main setts km^-2 (0.001–0.72 main setts km^-2 at 95% confidence limits) and would only survive in isolated populations in suburban habitats, which act as predator-free spatial refugia. In the mid-1990s, average main sett densities in rural habitats of southern England, central and west Midlands, and Wales exceeded this predicted threshold for hedgehog occurrence (Wilson, Harris & McLaren, 1997).
Badger populations are much lower in Eastern Europe and one of the factors seems to be suppression by their own predators (wolves & lynx). Again it's a combination of direct predation and the 'landscape of fear' effect whereby badgers remain close to their setts & safe routes between them, reducing their access to food sources in unsafe areas. Plus other factors such as lower earthworm numbers in forests compared to pastures, human hunting and maybe climate. Paper here:
Badger Meles meles Spatial Structure and Diet in an Area of Low Earthworm Biomass and High Predation Risk
 

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
If you read the paper ‘King Edward’ that I linked to in replying to the question Dan asked me, it summarise very well (and simply!) all the points you’ve just made.

I’m not sure of the RSPB’s current stance on EOs. I haven’t done any workfor them for several years (part of which involved Hedgehog conservation btw!) - the last I heard I think the thinking was it was not regarded as native sp and due to the potential predatory impact on HH, should not be allowed to recolonise from the escaped population.
 

King Edward

Well-known member
If you read the paper ‘King Edward’ that I linked to in replying to the question Dan asked me, it summarise very well (and simply!) all the points you’ve just made.
Cross-posted earlier and didn't see your reply. I'm sure I've looked at that page before although possibly it's been updated since then - there's a lot of good information on there with references to the original studies.
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
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