The Goshawk – The missing link up date

Since the article ‘Goshawk – The missing link’ was published on Raptor Politics what has changed? The new BTO atlas has come out and the claim is that Goshawks are expanding around Britain but still Kielder struggles to see adult birds returning to breed. The old Sparrowhawk work by Ian Newton was very similar with a large amount of young birds breeding showing a high mortality in winter of older birds going missing!


Immature Female Goshawk at nest with small chicks: Image by Dusan Boucny.

A remote camera set up on a Goshawk’s nest in Devon showed that 68% of all food brought to the nest was Grey Squirrels. But a nest in Derbyshire showed the amazing return of 95%. So if Grey Squirrels are being removed by Red Squirrel groups in areas where Goshawks are nesting it must effect the breeding production unless the goshawk have an alternative prey. That alternative could be pheasant poults, creating the bad feeling between estates and the bird leading to the adults’ being killed together with the loss of their brood.

The Forestry Commission at Kielder has had 1500 Goshawks rung to find out where they go but have only had 3 returns. [There is a big hole in the ground somewhere with most of these birds unceremoniously placed in it!] Another area had 486 birds ringed with 2 returns and one of these was shot!

Grey Squirrels are under attack with £millions poured into charities like The Red Squirrel Survival Trust who want to eliminate Grey Squirrels from the UK. Their patron is Prince Charles! Red Squirrels Northern England is yet another group and

Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels has merged with Red Squirrels in South Scotland (RSSS) to create one national Scottish project in co-ordinated action to save Britain’s only native squirrel species, the red squirrel.

In fact it is thought the Red Squirrel was once extinct in most of Britain with a small population isolated in Northern Scotland. Red Squirrels were brought in from Europe to fill this gap hence why you see so many colour forms. Nowhere on any of these charities web sites do you see anything about natural predators of either the Red or the Grey Squirrel!

Now the Country Landowners want to cover the countryside with warfarin to control the Grey Squirrel – At the same time killing endless Goshawks!!

How long can we justify these £millions of pounds of tax payers money  being used to try and eradicate Grey Squirrels using ‘humane traps’ and employing trappers where Red Squirrels can be released. Remember many other species are also trapped in these traps such as Polecats, Mink, Hedgehogs and even birds like Great spotted Woodpeckers and even Nuthatch which enter the traps following a trail of peanuts. It is hoped that most of these are released as Polecat is a fully protected Schedule 1 species just like the red and it is against the law to release the Mink or the grey back into the wild after capture.

The persecution of Goshawk is well known throughout Britain by the shooting estates. Given that their tunnel traps kill Red Squirrels as well as Grey Squirrels then you would hope the population of Grey Squirrels may be declining but that is not the case.

Given the great news that Pine Martens are now seen as the savours of Red Squirrels

is there new hope that Goshawk will be seen in the same light.

If Goshawks were protected and Pine Marten was brought back to key areas of Grey Squirrels then these two predators could reduce the population of Grey Squirrels to prevent further expansion into key Red Squirrel areas.

To do this we need a new charity. One that can draw the same money these other charities are abusing spreading incorrect propaganda and not using nature to solve a problem. The scientific evidence is there for everyone to see but sadly no one seems to want to use it. No they would prefer to brain wash little old ladies to think their money was going to a good cause.

5 comments to The Goshawk – The missing link up date

  • John Miles

    Great photo showing yet again a young female but she must have a mature mate bringing in food for those 4 youngsters.

  • mike

    Same old misunderstanding of raptor ecology – Gos do not limit numbers of squirrels or anything else, they simply take the surplus each year & if the prey numbers decline, so do they.
    Oh, I nearly forgot, 60 % of all Gos chicks die in their first winter & yes most of the rest end up stamped into the heather by the keepers.
    Ask the ringers – they get sent boxs of rings by keepers who are happy to let them know where they end up !
    Ban reared game & grouse shooting & we might have natural raptor distribution.
    Ask the Hen Harriers.

  • John Miles

    mike – You’ve read too many books! Was it not the great Derek Radcliffe who gave a percentage for young Peregrines to die in their first year but then found that the population had exploded so fast that the majority of young must have survived to cause the explosion. And when the racing pigeons were stopped racing through the Lakes they changed their prey to Rooks so they did not die.

  • Nigel Bastin

    Let’s not pretend, we all know why our goshawk population doesn’t expand, I’ve been an independent raptor researcher for more years than I care to mention, I’ve done work for the BTO and natural England in the past and still do, until the law changes on raptor protection for the better , I fear it will only get worse.