BBC partridge numbers cock-up

The BBC figures on the numbers of grey partridges are wildly inaccurate. That’s the response from the GWCT to a programme on BBC Radio 4, which claimed “today there are only about 100 grey partridges left in the UK”.

The programme Short Cuts on 24 March 2020 tried to monster game shooting by putting the bird at close to extinction. Grey or English partridge are still on the quarry list, though many shoots shoot them sparingly or not at all. The Avian Population Estimates Panel this February estimates that there are 37,000 pairs of grey partridge in the UK.

Grey partridge

The GWCT’s James Swyer says: ‘While we welcome the BBC highlighting the decline of grey partridge in Britain, sadly the reporters have their numbers all wrong. Although numbers have declined by more than 90% since the 1960s, their claim that “today there are only about 100 grey partridges left in the UK” is not just incorrect, but wildly inaccurate.

“Our research shows that grey partridges can thrive where the conditions are right. As the programme suggests, herbicide and insecticide does have an impact, as does hedgerow loss and an increase in numbers of generalist predators. However, there are measures, many available within current agri-environment schemes, that can address these issues. We are reliant on the conservation work of farmers and gamekeepers in reversing these declines and many across the country are currently doing this.”

The BBC responded and removed the false information from the episode on their website and on BBC Sounds.

In the same week, the GWCT criticised a BBC report about hares. On its blog, the GWCT wrote that in the March issue of BBC Wildlife, science writer Ben Hoare claimed that “controversial culls” of mountain hares in Scottish Highlands led to “drastic population declines”. The GWCT says evidence to support the claim is inconclusive and recent studies show “stable numbers of hares”. It goes on to say hare numbers were up to 35 times higher on areas managed for driven grouse shooting than areas not managed for shooting.

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