Bird of Prey Initiative’s missed target shows more needs to be done for declining species, say conservation charities

Bird of Prey Initiative’s missed target shows more needs to be done for declining species, say conservation charities

Hen harrier Mark Hamblin 2020vision

Wildlife Trusts in the Peak District are calling for urgent action to create a wilder National Park rich in wildlife

This follows the publication of the latest bird of prey report which shows that measures to improve the breeding success of birds of prey have again failed to hit targets. 

The UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world. Abundant and flourishing populations of birds, mammals, plants and insects alongside iconic species, including birds of prey, should be found across the UK especially in the wild uplands of our National Parks.

Julian Woolford, CEO for Staffordshire Wildlife Trust says: “The UK’s national and international global biodiversity targets are not being met and UK’s wildlife is continuing to rapidly decline. These latest figures are a yet another wake-up call on the failure to reverse wildlife decline and a huge concern for our magnificent birds of prey. Targets for three species - where work and action is supposed to be taking place to boost breeding numbers - continue to be quite spectacularly missed.”

The Bird of Prey Initiative brings together five leading land management and conservation organisations in the Peak District National Park and has agreed targets to try and restore populations of three key birds of prey in the Dark Peak.

The Peak District National Park Authority recently published the yearly results and said they were encouraged by progress as several species have had some breeding success, but recognised numbers were below target and bird of prey persecution remains a problem.

The 2020 report shows

  • Peregrine - six successful breeding pairs in 2020. The target set by the Bird of Prey Initiative is 17 pairs. This was initially set for 2015 and increased by two in 2016.
  • No confirmed short-eared owls breeding attempts in 2020.  The target set by the BoPI is 25 pairs over a five year average.
  • Merlin - 15 successful breeding pairs. BoPI target is 37 pairs.

Previous reports by the BoPI say successful nesting attempts of peregrine and goshawk were on land owned by the National Trust or the adjacent land owned by the Forestry Commission and Severn Trent.  Territories on and around private grouse moors are much less successful.

Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trusts are also concerned about other birds of prey, for which no targets have been set but numbers are lower than they should be for the National Park. There were no breeding pairs of hen harrier – a bird which suffers ongoing national illegal persecution especially on grouse moors - and only seven breeding pair of goshawk.

Liz Ballard, Chief Executive for Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust added:

“We want to see ambitious targets and meaningful action and the return of not only species in the Bird of Prey Initiative but also hen harrier and mammals like pine marten and red squirrel across a wilder landscape. All are species which have been absent from the Peak District National Park for a long time. Nature can and will recover if given the chance. This is what more and more people expect from a National Park – a place where exciting wildlife can be experienced by everybody.”

The Bird of Prey Initiative includes The Moorland Association, the National trust, Natural England and the Peak District National Park. Targets are based on the known populations at the time of SPA designation and adjusted to take account of pairs which fell within the protected area but outside the project area. Targets were also agreed for breeding success of peregrine and merlin based on national averages.

The BoPI set 2015 targets in 2012 for the following species. These were revised in 2016 to take into account a larger project area incorporating a wider area.


2015 target

Revised target







Short-eared owl

25 (5-year average)



The Wildlife Trusts highlight bird of prey persecution as a significant reason for a failure to reach the targets and has gathered further information on cases this year, including

  • The remains of a short eared found shot on a grouse moor in the Dark Peak in May.
  • An adult peregrine found dead in the Upper Derwent Valley which is under investigation by Derbyshire Police
  • A buzzard and two peregrines being tested for poison after being found dead in Staffordshire
  • Three peregrine nests were robbed of their eggs all within the Peak Park which is still under investigation by the police.