Outrage over licences for buzzard control


The news that Natural England licensed the destruction of the eggs and nests of buzzards was met with dismay by Gazette readers.

As we reported last month, the licences were issued to landowners in Northumberland and Cornwall in April to protect a pheasant shoot and poultry farm and nests were subsequently removed and birds taken into captivity.

In the 1950s and 1960s, buzzards were sporadic at best in Northumberland and there wasn’t an established breeding pair in the county until 1981.

They then spread to Allendale to the Cheviots and Kielder and today are the most common bird of prey in the county.

Martin Davison, an ornithologist with the Forestry Commission, said that there are now around 500 breeding pairs in Northumberland.

“It’s a success story and that’s how it should be,” he said. “But the shooting fraternity sees them as a competitor.”

He explained that destroying the eggs and nests or removing the birds doesn’t solve the problem, as they either return to nest the following year or another pair moves in.

“They are being illegally persecuted anyway,” he added.

And the initial report in the Gazette sparked fury among readers with several writing letters about the decision.

Amble’s John Tweddell wrote: “Surely Britain’s natural wildlife is more important than a few game birds which are bred by their thousands and die by their thousands on British roads?”

While NC Walker, of Alnwick, wrote: “If this agency was to live up to its title, protection should be its remit.”

But a ‘myth-busting’ statement from Natural England admitted that the recovery of the common buzzard population in England is a fantastic conservation success story, but went on: “In certain isolated cases however, buzzards – like any predatory species – can cause serious problems.

“In this particular case, the applicant – a small-scale gamekeeper – has sustained increased levels of predation by buzzards over a period of several years.

“Natural England has provided advice on a wide range of non-lethal methods and deterrents over the years – including scaring, diversionary feeding and habitat improvements – but despite their consistent application, buzzard predation has continued.”