Isle of Man Study Supports Red Grouse Reintroduction

A study of the Isle of Man has recommended reintroducing red  grouse to boost the island’s dwindling population of the bird. The Manx Uplands report, compiled by Professor Jim McAdam, said in the past three years breeding had declined. Research suggests the fall in grouse population was “almost entirely due to predation by harriers and peregrines”. Although there Short-eared owls are also found on the Isle of Man in very good numbers, the report makes no mention of this raptor species as a threat.
Red Grouse maintained at between 35 and 70 breeding pairs on the island

The report said: “The size of the grouse population on the island is an indicator of the health of the upland ecosystem.”

It recommended “to at least maintain the current level of upland management and strive to increase it by a controlled and monitored reintroduction of Red Grouse”. One issue not featured by the report as far as we are aware, if the reintroduction of Red Grouse goes ahead on the Isle of Man, what will then happen to the resident population of Hen Harriers and Short-eared owls? Will they be controlled to ensure the population of grouse continues to rise to acceptable densities?

Short-eared owl

Short-eared owls on the Isle of Man are known to be at reasonable densities

Fluctuating population

The red grouse, found only in the British Isles, was reintroduced on the island in 1880 after becoming extinct during the 1830s.

A sudden decline in numbers during the 1980s is thought to have been caused by increased predation, loss of habitat and a succession of weather-related poor breeding seasons.

Since then, the report said, the population has fluctuated between 35 and 70 breeding pairs.

The McAdam Report said reintroduction should be monitored carefully to establish if declining populations have also been affected by a restricted gene pool.

Hen Harrier isle of man

Hen Harrier Isle of Man

The Manx Uplands Report is the subject of an ongoing public consultation about the future of countryside management.

This article was written by  for BBC News Isle of Man, an republished by Focusing on Wildlife

4 comments to Isle of Man Study Supports Red Grouse Reintroduction

  • John Miles

    It shows that they have little knowledge of the uplands if they think SEO has no effect on Red Grouse. Why are so many killed on Red Grouse moors here and in Scotland! Just because they have a hooked beak!! I have even seen a cock Red Grouse hit a SEO as it flew over its young.

  • nirofo

    You know what a reintroduction of Red Grouse means, Raptor persecution resulting in a huge reduction in Hen Harriers and any other Raptors who live and visit there.

    Don’t bother reintroducing the grouse just to be shot for “sport” if it means Raptors have to suffer and die for it.

    Editor’s Comment. Nirofo, it appears local farmers have been pushing for more grouse as they would like to introduce a grouse shoot. Should this happen, the hen harrier and short-eared owl are likely to suffer the consequences. The question must therefore be asked, why should grouse numbers we increased by an introduction scheme if as a result the hen harrier and short-eared owl could be lost?

    • pyrrhocorax

      Dear Editor,

      There are no commercial grouse shoots in the IOM, only rough walked up shooting by syndicates, mostly on Government land.

      These shooters currently manage the heathland through burning and flailing, which is generally of benefit to the upland ecology- particularly other rare and declining upland birds. There is no evidence of any illegal persecution of raptors although numbers of harriers have declined from record high numbers in the last few years-this could be through natural fluctuation, climate, disturbance or some unidentified persecution, but the low UK numbers are bound to have an effect on the IOM population.

      The report recognises the importance of hill land management and the long term unsustainability of the hill syndicates (there has been a moratorium on grouse shooting for a number of years due to low numbers-despite which the shooters have continued to manage the hill and be accepting of the high background numbers of raptors- for which they should be commended). The boosting of grouse numbers has been identified by the author of the report as a way of ensuring succession of hill-land managers through increasing their return from their hard work . There is certainly no intention for any commercial grouse activity, nor has this been inferred in the report.

      The Isle of Man is rightfully proud of its raptor populations, (including SE owl) and all of these species are protected in the Wildlife Act, 1990. There is no suggestion that these species will remain anything other than protected.

      I hope that this has provided a balanced view from someone with a direct knowledge of the Manx upland and a keen interest in all of its bird species.

      Editor’s Comment. This is very welcome news, from what you tell us its seems apparent the Isle of Man Hen Harriers and Short-eared owls there have a long and secure future ahead. Keep up the good work.

  • Alan Jackson

    Thank you pyrrhocorax, I am choughed by your comments. I am one of the hill shooting tenants on the IOM and was wondering how to reply but could not have put it half as well. I just want to point out that we value and appreciate ALL the birds on our hills and are striving to find a way to achieve this by trying to increase the red grouse population as a reward for all the hard work and money that we put into the management of the hills (a requirement of our government leases). The quote from the report stating that “losses were almost entirely due to harrier and peregrine predation” missed out the vital two words preceding it which were “late summer”. I would also point out that as well as a shooting man I am a licensed falconer on the Island and have nursed many sick and injured birds of prey back to fitness and release, including peregrines and a harrier. Please don’t don’t get carried away with anti shooting sentiment and tar everyone with the same brush.

    Editor’s Comment. Alan, we welcome your input into this debate, thank you. All we can say is that you are very fortunate to have such intelligent and forward thinking people looking after your wildlife on the island. Sadly its a very different story here in Northern England where it has become essential to place 24/7 watches on harrier nest sites to prevent their destruction. Your responsible attitude towards wildlife and habitat is a remarkable example which everyone should follow. Its a pity however owners of red grouse moors, together with most of their gamekeepers on this side of the water, have little respect for birds of prey.