Raptor predation on wintering waders in southeast Scotland



Predation on waders was investigated over the winters of 1982-83 and 1983-84 at a rocky shore and a small estuary in southeast Scotland. Probably all the waders which were found after being eaten were killed by raptors; mammalian predation and death due to severe weather were of minimal importance in comparison to the effects of raptor predation. Sparrowhawks were probably the major predators of waders at both sites, but owls also took some. Differences were found between the rocky shore and the estuary in the species of raptors which were seen (more Peregrines and Merlins seen on the estuary) and in the numbers of wader kills which had been plucked and eaten on open ground (more open ground pluckings, indicative of Peregrines and Merlins, found on the estuary). It is suggested that Peregrines and Merlins took more waders at the estuary due to their preference for hunting over large open expanses. Winter mortality rates due to predation varied in different species of waders: at the rocky shore the Redshank suffered the heaviest winter mortality (20% and 16%) whilst on the estuary the Ringed Plover had the highest winter mortality (19%). At both sites no large waders such as Curlews and Oystercatchers died as a result of predators and for these species other factors, such as severe weather or starvation, appeared to be a greater source of mortality. Significantly more juvenile Redshanks, Turnstones and, probably, Dunlin and Ringed Plovers were found eaten than was expected from the age-composition of their respective populations. In the Redshank and Turnstone several differences in the behaviour of juveniles and adults were discovered which may have made juveniles more vulnerable to predation.