WILDLIFE experts have hit out over government plans to capture or destroy the nests of buzzards so that gamekeepers’ pheasant shoots can be protected.
The Environment Department (Defra) is to spend nearly £400,000 researching ways to stop buzzards targeting captive-reared pheasants, proposing that nests could be destroyed to stop the birds breeding.
But the RSPB has labelled the news “totally unacceptable” while Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust say the money could be better spent.
Neil Wyatt, chief executive of the Wildlife Trust, said: “It’s an extraordinary coincidence that I was driving through Kingstanding this morning and saw something I’ve never seen before – a buzzard sitting on top of a lamppost.
“There are buzzards nesting in Birmingham and the Black Country and you can spot them flying over the motorway and even over Harborne.”
But Neil says buzzards are a conservation success story because less than 20 years ago there were worries about local populations.
“One of the reasons we’ve got so many buzzards is that there are so many poorly managed pheasant shoots producing large numbers of birds that can barely fly,” he said.
“Many times I’ve been walking along country roads and seen pheasants that struggle to run away from you because they’ve been reared in very high densities. You have to question what kind of job are they doing about pens and security if this is a major issue.
“You can secure the top and sides to keep foxes out. Perhaps it would be better to put £400,000 towards some netting.”
But Defra says a survey by the National Gamekeepers Organisation found that three quarters of gamekeepers believed buzzards had a harmful effect on pheasant shoots.
And the research plan is supported by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation.
A Defra spokeswoman said: “This research is about maintaining the balance between captive and wild birds.”