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The state of our birds


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Habitat is a huge issue but so are raptors and nest predators.  

Sure, raptors have been a factor since the first raptor came on the scene - that's what they do. But the question as I see it is, "how much of a factor?" Are they a detrimental factor beyond what would be considered normal predation for a given environment? And how do we determine what that traditionally was before we got involved?

I still don't see how there could be more hawks than prey that is available. In other words, the two keep each other in check. Maybe that doesn't yield as many game birds as your dear old pappy remembered back when a good day in the field meant dropping any hawks that you saw as well, but so be it.

I still think there are far larger issues affecting game birds in most areas than predation.

Aren't you assuming that they only prey on game birds in your statements?  Raptors will eat other species as well but will concentrate on the easiest prey available until their numbers are insufficient for the effort.  Kill game birds then move to rabbits, etc.

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Aren't you assuming that they only prey on game birds in your statements?  Raptors will eat other species as well but will concentrate on the easiest prey available until their numbers are insufficient for the effort.  Kill game birds then move to rabbits, etc.

Of course. But are we talking about "managing" raptors because we actually believe that their populations have exploded and are all out of whack with what should be a normal (and healthy) level of predation, or are we just talking about culling raptors regardless, so we have more game birds around?

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Too bad Rhode island is off the grid...one of the tidbits I do recall I THINK from him was that predation-related mortality in ruffed grouse was dependant on the SIZE of the cover they lived in...small covers led to a higher raate of predation than larger covers...so protecting and establishing good larger covers can actually cut into the predation without doing anytihg at all to the population of predators (except as less easy hunting would naturally affect it).

You know, we're probably thinking about this from different perspectives.  My dealings with raptors is from the midwest and western states - open country.  I would suspect that a ruff has an easier time hiding from raptors than a quail or chukar due to habitat.

On another note, isn't one of the theories behind the grouse cycles linked to the population flows of Goshawks?

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But are we talking about "managing" raptors because we actually believe that their populations have exploded and are all out of whack with what should be a normal (and healthy) level of predation, or are we just talking about culling raptors regardless, so we have more game birds around?

From a 1972 perspective, they have exploded and game bird populations have declined.

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From a 1972 perspective, they have exploded and game bird populations have declined.

Ok, but to say that they have "exploded" once the need for protection was enacted after years of being routinely shot on sight, poisoned, etc, seems like a bit of a stretch.

You could say the same about pelicans since DDT has been banned, but in actuality it would probably be more accurate to say they are finally recovering to pre-poisoning levels, than that they've "exploded." It took ospreys, for example, decades to recover to pre-DDT levels.

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bosco mctavitch
On another note, isn't one of the theories behind the grouse cycles linked to the population flows of Goshawks?

I don't know...I only know that I have seen graphs charting both species populations over time, and that they seem to fluctuate together.  I would venture based on my (quite possibly flawed) understanding that the goshawk preys almost exclusively on grouse that the grouse cycle affects the goshawk cycle, more than the goshawk cycle affects the grouse cycle...if that makes sense.  But like others have said, I'm just tying to learn about this and understand, I am only guessing...there's no reason that what "makes sense" in my mind is even remotely related to reality.

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I hope this discussion can remain interesting and civil thus far it is thought provoking even if we have done it before.

Flush you are correct,  51% of the birds recovered (however all of the telemetered birds, or their radios, were recovered as I recall--easy to find broadcasting modules, even in owl poop)

I understand your reference to adult birds so let's look at other data.

Delta Waterfowl and their program of predator managment vis a vis recruitment/nesting success. Yes, I know that was a study on mammalian predators, but a predator by any other name...........

There results were dramatic to say the least.  The data is readily available.

Matt Crawford--the data on woodcock numbers is so poorly collected by such an ill conceived and dated process that is is quite likely that we have very little in the way of meaningful census data about woodcock.

As to the "balance" of nature---an interesting myth and one not well founded in demographics.  More likely is a cyclic process of population 'boom and bust' albeit more easily observed in some species than in others.

Smithhammer---if your question is "would you control/manage/kill raptors to provide more game birds" my answer is.........yep.

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bosco mctavitch
if your question is "would you control/manage/kill raptors to provide more game birds" my answer is.........yep.

And therein lies the heart of the issue--my question is not "would you", but "should we".  I would argue that if we are doing so in order to perpetuate an unnatural condition, then the answer will inevitably be no.

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Matt Crawford

A "no" from me, too.

I'd rather put time, energy, resources, money and years of scientific study into improving/conserving habitat.

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As to the "balance" of nature---an interesting myth and one not well founded in demographics.  More likely is a cyclic process of population 'boom and bust' albeit more easily observed in some species than in others.

I think most people, myself included, would say that the fluctuating cycle you refer to is what is meant by the term, "the balance of nature." It's not like "balance" means static, unchanging population levels. Of course they are changing all the time in response to available resources, weather conditions, predator vs. prey numbers, etc.

Since you're willing to "control/manage/kill" raptors in order to enhance game bird populations, should we kill all snakes too, since they eat bird eggs? How about coyotes? Coyotes eat birds now and then. Kill all coyotes too? While we're at it, should we just sanitize the outdoors completely and manicure it so that it only produces maximum numbers of those few game species that we're interested in hunting?

Unfortunately, in many areas of the country, I think lobbies have had too much influence on land management practices with the goal of producing the above scenario for totally self-interested purposes - kill all the wolves so we can have as many deer as possible, kill all the herons because they eat trout, kill all the mountain lions so I can let my poodle out of the house, even though I chose to live in the mountains. But where I live, there is still a lot of messy, chaotic wilderness full of all sorts of nasty critters like wolves and grizzly and mountain lions, and lots of raptors, and, coincidentally, a good number of hunters, and it all seems to coexist fairly well for the most part. And I want to do what I can to keep it that way, even if it means I'm not tripping over ridiculous numbers of grouse 10 feet from the trailhead.

I think it is possible (at least in parts of the country that aren't already totally #&^@ed up), as long as we don't get too greedy. Set aside as much land as you can for them, and then let them do their thing. They have a much better track record at managing themselves than we have doing it for them.

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Ok, but to say that they have "exploded" once the need for protection was enacted after years of being routinely shot on sight, poisoned, etc, seems like a bit of a stretch.

I grew up in the 50's and 60's, and I don't know of anyone that went around killing raptors randomly back then. In fact they were rare enough that they were treated as an oddity. But not when the bastards were in the chicken coop. Mom kept layers, 200-300 all the time, they'd pry the chicken wire over the windows back, or find a crack around around the wire door in wam weather when the outer door was left open. Dad usually did the killing. They were are enough that if you saw a redtail you pointed it out to whomever you were with.

I'm with Brymoore, they've exploded. Worse yet, they've become enamored in a PC way. Anyone think of any population density studies that's been done with regards to what's a healthy raptor carrying level for a given amount of area? They're sacred. Doesn't matter how many there are, they're sacred and they're protected. End of discussion.

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Since you're willing to "control/manage/kill" raptors in order to enhance game bird populations, should we kill all snakes too, since they eat bird eggs? How about coyotes? Coyotes eat birds now and then. Kill all coyotes too? While we're at it, should we just sanitize the outdoors completely and manicure it so that it only produces maximum numbers of those few game species that we're interested in hunting?

Who advocated those practices?

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I'm not claiming that raptors are sacred, any more so than any other bird, but I also still don't buy the idea that they've somehow "exploded." How have they exploded? What are they eating in such abundance that has allowed them to explode? A predator population is only going to grow in relation to the availability of prey, and are kept in check from "exploding" by the limitations of prey, right? And if that's the case, then how could they be overabundant in relation to available food sources?
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Factors such as increasing numbers of raptors probably have an effect, but it still all comes down to habitat. If you have the proper habitat, which, among other things, means protective cover, the birds can survive large numbers of hawks, owls, and the like. When the habitat goes, the birds become easy pickings, the hawks and owls eat well, and we consequently get more of them. It all comes down to loss of habitat. We need either fires or clearcutting here in the east. Studies have shown that ruffed grouse cycles in the midwest closely follow cycles in the numbers of snowshoe hares. If there are a lot of hares the hawks and owls tend to feed on them. When their numbers fall, they begin feeding more on ruffed grouse. What causes the population swings in hares is anybody's guess. Maybe we put them buck hares on viagara??
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