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Thread: Fewer Kestrels about?

  1. #1

    Fewer Kestrels about?

    Is it just me or does there seem to be fewer Kestrels about these days?

    I travel to work along country lanes every day and it dawned on me this week that I haven't seen one hovering on the side of the road for ages!! I still see Sparrowhawks and loads of Buzzards and Kites so could these be preying on the smaller hawks??

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  2. #2
    I have noticed the same Stratts and put it down to Buzzards, seeing less little owls as well.

  3. #3
    SD Regular Mr. Gain's Avatar
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    Aug 2011
    SW Birmingham (Rubery Rednal)
    From the "Ministry of Truth" a.k.a the RSPB web site.
    [Kestrel] Population trends. 21 July 2011.
    Kestrels are relatively short-lived birds.
    Mortality among the young birds is high - only around 20 per cent survive two years to breeding age. Those that do, will on average live for a further two and a half years, while a very few can survive well into their teens.

    Starvation is the biggest cause of death, especially of juveniles during their first autumn and winter. Collisions and accidents, shooting, poisoning and disease are other important causes of mortality. [The usual casual defamation]

    Kestrel numbers fluctuate, and are closely linked to vole numbers. The UK population was estimated at 52,000 breeding pairs for the 1988-91 Breeding Bird Atlas.

    Like many other birds of prey, kestrels were persecuted heavily in the late 19th and early 20th century by gamekeepers, even though they rarely take game bird chicks. Reduced persecution during World War II allowed kestrel numbers to recover [those evil gamekeepers again! Presumably the point of giving such prominence to the state of affairs 100 years ago]. They suffered a serious decline in late 1950s and in 1960s from effects of persistent organochlorine pesticides such as DDT and dieldrin, particularly in eastern England.

    Although kestrels recovered following the withdrawal of these pesticides, the numbers started to decline again in 1980s. Kestrel numbers in England have fluctuated since the mid-1980s with no evidence of any long-term decline. Kestrel numbers in Scotland have declined markedly since the mid 1990s, the cause of which is unknown.

    The kestrel is included on the Amber List of Birds of Conservation Concern due to the moderate decline of the UK breeding population and its adverse conservation status Europe-wide. The cause of the recent decline since 2005 has not been identified [How convenient! Otherwise one might need to mention the rise in the population of larger raptors in the same habitats].
    The RSPB: Kestrel: Population trends
    But, go to a page that has some interest in research and you'll find this:

    The kestrel population has declined significantly in the UK in the last decades. There are a number of hypotheses why this decline has taken place, but so far none of them have been tested formally. In this project, we test whether the decline is caused by any of the following factors:

    1. Habitat change
    2. Lack of prey (small birds and voles)
    3. Increased nest site competition from jackdaws and barn owls
    4. Increased predation from buzzards, ravens and goshawks
    5. Increased use of rodenticides ("rat poison")
    6. Negative impacts of a wetter climate (climate change)

    [Wot? No nasty gamekeepers? Some mistake, surely?]

    The RSPB: Projects: Causes of kestrel population decline
    "Docendo discimus" - Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC – 65 AD)
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  4. #4
    Always used to count Kestrels along Motorways to avoid boredom, now count buzzards "Quid pro quo". Buzzards have appeared in vast numbers throughout the Midlands in the past 10 years, none were seen prior to the 90's. Kites are increasing phenomenally in the East Midlands particularly around game rearing areas. We were told when they were introduced that they ate carrion, but all dead stock now has to be rendered and roadkills result in dead kites. I know what they eat as do most countrymen, anything from blackbirds to partridge ad young rabbits. Saw 11 kites over partridge pens three days ago I suppose they were after worms. Watched a brood of Barn owls fledge this year and two were eaten by buzzards in their first week out of the nest. Sooner or later nothing will be left except raptors , then the big ones will eat the small ones even more. I find it really sad to see the little mousefalcons disappearing from most areas.

  5. #5
    That b@st@rd Judd killed our kestrel.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by stratts View Post
    Is it just me or does there seem to be fewer Kestrels about these days?

    I travel to work along country lanes every day and it dawned on me this week that I haven't seen one hovering on the side of the road for ages!! I still see Sparrowhawks and loads of Buzzards and Kites so could these be preying on the smaller hawks??

    Didn't you post something a couple of months ago about how good it was that all of the set aside/rough ground on your shoot had been mown?

    Not having a go at you but the system that creates a habitat that lots of species exploit then, one day the mower comes in and takes it all away in a few hours.

    I know this is only one factor in a complex issue but it is a factor none the less.

  7. #7
    its predation by buzzards thats causing the decline. ? a survey on spring watch or similar on this very topic, rare sight nowerdays v lucky to see 1 on a trip from Taunton to Bristol along the M5. On a +ve note am seeing lots of barn owls whilst out foxing.


  8. #8
    Last year there were always two or three kestrels around in the fields near me, I haven't seen one in the last six months. A couple of sparrow hawks and shed loads of buzzards though, it's possible to see half a dozen floating round most of the day.

  9. #9
    they packed their bags and moved to my area....... I was gonna ask the other day if you folks were seeing more.....

  10. #10
    Here- I'm fairly sure it's down to competition from Kites. They gather in flocks of up to 60 when the silage is cut and polish off anything that moves. I also think the kites with their group tactics and large physical presence out-compete the Buzzards.

    I'm still wary of accusing the kites of actively predating anything poult size or bigger though. My main wood has two pens of 2000 pheasants in it and they happily shared with in excess of thirty kites this year. One evening, there was a larch tree with three kites and six pheasants roosting in it!
    The kites in my biggest pen of 3000 pheasants hatched and fledged a full clutch of young and never touched a feather on a poult.

    I also think the rise in popularity of driven shooting has been a huge factor in the increase in kite numbers but imagine trying to get credit for that

    Most of us know that when you actively manage a habitat for one species, there are always winners and losers. At the moment, Badgers, Kites and other large meso-predators are in vogue- at the expense of everything else.

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