Moors’ renaissance of the merlin

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Britain’s smallest birds of prey are flying in to nest on Lancashire grouse moors which have helped stave off their downfall.

A new study commissioned by the Moorland 
Association has found dramatic gains in merlin populations on globally recognised heather moorland managed by gamekeepers for wild red grouse, like those in the Trough of Bowland.

Consultant ecologists Penny Anderson Associates have highlighted significant increases using respected British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Atlas data.

The study assessed the distribution of breeding merlin in England. It found 78 per cent of records were on protected and conserved iconic heather landscapes keepered for red grouse.

More importantly, it suggests numbers of breeding records have doubled on grouse moors in the last 20 years, according to MA chairman, Robert Benson.

He said: “While the threatened species has done exceptionally well on land looked after by keepers, the beautiful birds are struggling in other upland areas, where breeding records have fallen by more than half in the same period.”

BTO data shows breeding records within 10 kilometre squares, making it possible to establish that where there are gamekeepers, there are four times more merlin.

The gains on grouse moors have helped maintain the protected bird’s population.