Conservation trust hatches plans to save grey partridge

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The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) is urging conservationists, gamekeepers and farmers to help boost grey partridge numbers.

The charity has devised a ‘New Year Action Plan’ to aid the recovery of what is now one of Britain’s most rapidly declining farmland birds.

GWCT’s research director Professor Nick Sotherton said the charity’s 40-year research programme into the greys’ decline has led to developing methods to re-establish vital habitats lost through changing agriculture practices.

“Our ‘New Year Action Plan’ will ensure that all these aspects are catered for and, if implemented on a national basis, this could be the turning point in the fortunes of this once common bird.”

GWCT says the native ground-nesting birds need all-year-round habitats, providing food and nesting and brood rearing cover, additional food in winter and protection from predators.

Suggestions include filling hopper feeders with wheat and feeding until May, planting kale, millet and triticale, creating ‘beetle banks’, by planting cock’s food grass on a raised bank, and protection from foxes and crows.

Scottish Gamekeepers Association chairman, Peeblesshire gamekeeper Alex Hogg said: “Although the grey is more common in England, it has been encouraging to see the positive affects that land management can have on grey partridge and other species (here).

Following the awful weather-related breeding season in 2012, a significant proportion of the shooting community observed a voluntary moratorium on the shooting of greys. Measures such as this and those outlined by GWCT can only help this vulnerable ground-nesting bird recover, although they face many threats.”

A RSPB Scotland spokesman said: “Eastern Scotland remains an important stronghold for wild grey partridge populations, particularly as this species has suffered significant loss of range in recent decades and is now very scarce in the north and southwest of Scotland.

“We support and are working with GWCT on efforts to address these worrying declines and believe farmers and landowners, particularly with the support of well funded agri-environment schemes, can also play a vital role in future wild grey partridge conservation.”