Report shows birds of prey take few pigeons
23rd March 2004
Report shows birds of prey take few pigeons

There is no evidence that birds of prey cause major losses of racing pigeons at lofts or during races, according to a new study funded by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Scottish Homing Union (SHU). The research report Racing Pigeons – Impact of Raptor Predation, which was produced by Central Science Laboratory (CSL), has found no evidence of major losses of racing pigeons to birds of prey (raptors) and concludes that much more could be done using deterrents and other novel techniques to reduce the small number of successful attacks that do take place.

The study found that 56% of racing pigeons are reported lost annually to all causes, but sparrowhawks - the birds often blamed for major losses - accounted for less that 1%.

The two-year study, which was overseen by a Working Group chaired by Alex Neil MSP, was commissioned to assess the nature and extent of raptor attacks on racing pigeons reported by SHU members, and to investigate ways to reduce any impacts. The CSL researchers worked closely with SHU members, who supplied relevant data on pigeon losses, recoveries of pigeon rings from peregrine eyries, and pigeon carcasses. They found that over half of all lofts reported no losses to sparrowhawks, and less than 1% of pigeons were reported to be taken by sparrowhawks. It also estimated that a minimum of 2% of racing pigeons were taken by peregrines.

Michael Scott, Deputy Chairman of SNH (and a member of the Working Group) commented:
“SNH is grateful to Alex Neil MSP for chairing the Working Group which oversaw this research. SNH is also appreciative of the work of the Scottish Homing Union during the conduct of this research. The Central Science Laboratory has completed an admirable piece of research and has provided a valuable assessment of losses of racing pigeons to a wide range of factors. The estimated losses of racing pigeons to raptors appear to be small. We note that more research is recommended, notably on the causes of straying and on management measures to minimise pigeon losses around lofts”.

The report highlights the very complex nature of factors impacting on racing pigeons and the need for a variety of actions to help safeguard them. Field trials of race deterrents applied to the pigeons to discourage raptor attacks, and a review of previous research, also indicated that some further techniques (such as using mirrors and reflectors) may prove effective in reducing the take of racing pigeons by predators around lofts. Further research is proposed in the report by the Central Science Laboratory to investigate why so many racing pigeons stray and scatter on race routes, and further guidelines could be produced to assist loft owners in the use of deterrents, and on the siting and management of pigeon lofts to reduce risks of predation.
Racing Pigeons – Impact of Raptor Predation is available on the SNH website For more information contact:
Sarah Roe, Press and PR officer SNH Tel: 0131 446 2270; Mobile: 07787 836010

Notes to Editors
· The Scottish sparrowhawk population is estimated at around 7000 pairs and is thought to be stable. The UK sparrowhawk population appears to have declined by 13 per cent since 1994.
· The Scottish peregrine population has declined from 626 (1991) to 544 (2002) pairs. The UK peregrine population is around 1400 pairs.
· There are around 340,000 racing pigeons and approximately 4100 pigeon lofts in Scotland.
· Scottish Natural Heritage is the Government’s statutory advisor in respect of the conservation, enhancement, enjoyment, understanding and sustainable use of the natural heritage.

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