RSPB stunned by Defra plan to ‘imprison’ buzzards


RSPB Press-release 24 May 2012:

The RSPB is stunned by Defra’s plan to allow the destruction of buzzard nests and to permit buzzards to be taken into captivity to remove them from shooting estates. The Society believes this intervention against one of England’s best-loved birds of prey will set a terrible precedent and prove to be a costly and unnecessary exercise.

The move by Defra followed lobbying by the pheasant shooting industry. Buzzards usually scavenge on animals which have already died, but they will sometimes take young pheasants which are released for sports shooting.

The buzzard was eradicated from large swathes of Britain following decades of persecution. Legal protection and a general warming of attitudes towards buzzards and other birds of prey on the part of many lowland land managers, led to buzzards recovering across the UK: a fantastic conservation success story.


Martin Harper is the RSPB’s conservation director. Criticising Defra’s proposal, he said: “We are shocked by Defra’s plans to destroy buzzard nests and to take buzzards into captivity to protect a non-native game bird released in its millions. Buzzards play a minor role in pheasant losses, compared with other factors like collisions with vehicles.”

Pheasants are not native to the UK. Around 40 million birds are released every year for shooting.  The impacts of this practice on wildlife have been poorly documented, but serious questions have been raised about the impact such a large injection of captive-reared birds might have on the predator-prey balance in our countryside.

Buzzards will take young pheasants from rearing pens, given the opportunity, but the RSPB believes the issue can be managed without destroying nests or moving buzzards. Measures include providing more cover for young pheasants in release pens, visual deterrents to discourage birds of prey and providing alternative food sources.

We are shocked by Defra’s plans to destroy buzzard nests and to take buzzards into captivity


Mr Harper added: “There are options for addressing the relatively small number of pheasant poults lost to buzzards. Destroying nests is completely unjustified and catching and removing buzzards is unlikely to reduce predation levels, as another buzzard will quickly take its place. Both techniques would be illegal under current wildlife laws, and I think most people will agree with us that reaching for primitive measures, such as imprisoning buzzards or destroying their nests, when wildlife and economic interests collide is totally unacceptable.

“At a time when funding for vital conservation work is so tight, and with another bird of prey, the hen harrier, facing extinction as a breeding bird in England, I can think of better ways of spending £400,000 of public funds. This money could work harder for wildlife, and I hope the Government will therefore put a stop to this project.”

Mick Carroll, of the Northern England Raptor Forum, said: “Given that buzzards are still recovering from past persecution and there is no evidence they are a significant cause of loss, this is a scandalous waste of public money.”

Nigel Middleton, Hawk and Owl Trust Conservation Officer for the Eastern Region, said: “We are totally against persecution of any birds of prey, and destroying the nests of buzzards is tantamount to this. We believe that alternatives should always be sought to lethal control where the commercial interests of humans come into conflict with birds of prey.”

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About the author

Passionate about animal welfare and conservation, veggie and dairy-free, I live in the Wiltshire (UK) countryside. I co-founded Birders Against Wildlife Crime and Birds Korea. Trustee of the League against Cruel Sports On Twitter @charliemoores


  1. Antje Molton says:

    Just recently my neighbour and took pleasure in watching four buzzards circling over our village, a display that had been absent for over twenty years. It was sheer delight!
    Not so long ago the pigeon racers asked DEFRA to do something about the peregrine that had ,in their opinion, increased by such a number that they were loosing all their stock and money.( As if) . Thankfully it came to nothing (for the time being).
    It seems as soon as a species has recovered a little from the relentless persecutiion inflicted on it by man, it has to be culled in one way or another.
    The reason is as usual money. some few people can enjoy themselves killing birds not for food but for fun. Killing and fun is a doubtful combination. These people need to take themselves and their money as fast as possible to a shrink.
    We do not live in an undisturbed world with a natural balance and some form of controll may sometimes be the only option, but clearly not in this instant.
    The shooting brigade is trying to tell us that they are suffering massive losses.
    Even if only twelve million pheasants were reared every year there are more than plenty for all the Hooray henrys left to kill.
    It seems that that our native birds have to stand back, so that the idiots of this world can have their fun and the landowners lots of money.


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