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Birds of prey in the UK: On a Wing and a Prayer

Female hen harrier flying low

Hen harriers are severely affected by illegal persecution

Birds of prey are among our most spectacular and well known birds, but remain a controversial subject for some. Birds of prey in the UK: On a Wing and a Prayer is a new report produced by 26 organisations, which attempts to address some of these controversies, relying on fact rather than anecdote.

It describes the status of our birds of prey, provides a brief history of their conservation, and, with an eye to the future, explains why we must do more to protect these birds. 
 
Many birds of prey have recovered spectacularly from historical human interference and the debilitating effects of organochlorine pesticide poisoning, representing a conservation and cultural success story. However, much still needs to be done to secure the future for species including the golden eagle and hen harrier, the populations of which continue to be limited by illegal killing.

It is therefore essential that birds of prey continue to receive full legal protection, and that our wildlife laws are properly enforced, bringing an end to the illegal killing.
 
The 26 organisations that have endorsed this report represent a diverse set of backgrounds, interests and experience, and collectively reflect the interests of over 7 million people - a powerful voice demanding strong protection for some of our most iconic species. This demonstrates how highly regarded birds of prey are, and that their fate is a concern for anyone who cares about our countryside.

From this page you can access the main report, summaries of the main messages contained within it and a series of factual briefing sheets which go into more detail on specific issues often associated with birds of prey.

Why should we protect birds of prey?

There are many good reasons to protect birds of prey. A short selection of these is shown here. There are many others that could have been used, but those below briefly cover the value and the vulnerability of our birds of prey. More...

Why should we protect birds of prey?

Historical decline

Bird of prey destruction increased dramatically during the 19th Century when game shooting became more widespread. As numbers declined, birds of prey were increasingly sought after by egg and skin collectors. More...

Historical decline

The road to recovery

Most UK bird of prey populations have recovered significantly during the last century. Several factors have contributed to this improvement. More...

The road to recovery

Future challenges

Despite the improvements and successes, humans still pose a threat to birds of prey. More...

Future challenges

Red grouse and birds of prey

Red grouse populations in much of Britain have been declining over the last few decades. This decline has had an impact on the number of grouse available for shooting, raising concerns over the viability of game shooting for game managers and landowners. More...

Red grouse and birds of prey

Racing pigeons and birds of prey

Some pigeon fanciers are concerned that the increase in the numbers of birds of prey, particularly peregrines and sparrowhawks, is posing a significant threat to their hobby. More...

Racing pigeons and birds of prey

Birds of prey and songbirds

The populations of several common songbird species are declining across Western Europe, with farmland and woodland species declining since the 1970s. Many people are concerned about this. More...

Birds of prey and songbirds