More should be done to ensure all birds of prey flourish, Scottish Natural Heritage urged as a new report revealed mixed fortunes for raptors.
However, declines in some species such as kestrels have been stark. Once a common and widespread breeding bird, they are now becoming scarce in many parts of Scotland. The report shows emerging trends in the populations of 13 species.
Ron Macdonald, SNH’s director of policy and advice, said: “I’d like to say a huge thank you to the hundreds of volunteer specialists who have helped us present, for the first time, a clear picture of what’s happening to birds of prey across Scotland.
“We need even more volunteers to help us monitor raptors in Scotland though, so contact the Scottish Raptor Study Group if you could lend a hand.”
In future, more work will be done to analyse data and find out why populations are changing to develop understanding of the predators.
Amy Challis, the Scottish raptor monitoring co-ordinator, said: “This report paves the way for us to gain a greater understanding of the health of raptor populations in Scotland.
“The existing dedicated raptor monitoring volunteers have already provided a wealth of information, and it is now a priority for the Scottish raptor monitoring scheme to build on their work.
The report was written by the British Trust for Ornithology Scotland, RSPB Scotland and Haworth Conservation, funded by Scottish Natural Heritage. It used data that is mainly held by the Scottish raptor monitoring scheme.
Experts said a number of factors may have led to the decline of kestrels.
Gordon Riddle, from the Scottish Raptor Study Group, said: “We’re unsure exactly why kestrels have declined. Recent harsh winters may have led to a high mortality, but even before then kestrels were declining.
“It’s likely that these changes are due to a combination of factors, including habitat changes with the loss of rough grassland foraging areas and prey availability.