Kielder Forest Goshawks:Bloodlines Investigated.

Goshawk chicks in Kielder Water and Forest Park are providing DNA samples to uncover more about their bloodlines in the Northumberland wilderness.[singlepic id=289w 300 h=320 220 float=left]

By the end of the 19thcentury the goshawks had disappeared from our forests entirely due to their persecution resulting in their eventual extinction throughout the United Kingdom. A small nuclius of birds however began to reappear in areas like the Kielder Forest in the 1960’s together with additional birds in the Derbyshire’s Upper Derwent Valley in the late 1950’s.  Almost certainly these birds had originally escaped from falconers or had been released by their owners in a concerted attempt to restore the goshawk as a breeding bird to our country. Beginning in 1962 nestling goshawks were being imported from many European countrys like Sweden, Norway, Finland, Austria, West Germany and Czechoslovakia. Of the 12 goshawk chicks imported in the early 1950’s from the former Czechoslovakia by a falconerer living in the small rural village of Meltham, just twenty miles across moorland leading to the Upper Derwent Valley, 50% of these birds are known to have escaped. [singlepic id=288w 300 h=320 220 float=right]

The goshawk is one of the rarest raptors in the UK and a special licence is required to visit their nests. Now monitoring by the Forestry Commission at Keilder, which includes ringing, weighing and measuring chicks, is being stepped up to include taking DNA samples. Disappointingly their numbers are still being reduced by persecution outside areas managed by the Forestry Commission.

Martin Davison, a Forestry Commission ornithologist, explained: “Blood tests carried out two decades ago found that the local population derived from a single female, presumably the one that arrived in the forest 50 years ago. We are now seeking proof that new bloodlines have since migrated into the Kielder forest. It’s an interesting project, but very much in its early days. We expect the results to confirm that the bird is drawing on a wider gene pool of unrelated birds. That is important because it makes for a healthier and more viable population. Goshawks are magnificent birds and it’s good see the population is stable.”

Rangers are staging three Goshawk walks to raise the curtain on the Wild at Kielder season, which celebrates the forest’s amazing wildlife. The walks will hope to see the thrilling ‘sky dance’ as male Goshawks bid to impress potential mates. Wild at Kielder season is organised by the Kielder Partnership, and for more details of other exciting events visit.

Raptor Politics are concerned if the government’s privatisation of our forests like the Kielder goes ahead, how long will the goshawk last under their new private owners?

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