Trust’s lapwing chick survival study features in the Irish Examiner


This article appears in the Irish Examiner dated  Friday, April 29, 2016.

The original full article can be read here:

A farmer, walking his fields at this time of year, might come upon a clutch of four little eggs, their pointed ends arranged neatly together in a scrape on the ground, writes Richard Collins

The survival rate of lapwing chicks is alarmingly low and is a threat to the existence of the species here.

These ‘Easter’ eggs were eaten long ago during the seasonal festivities. Their provider, however, was no supernatural visitor but a familiar countryside bird, known as the ‘pee-wit’ ‘green plover’ or ‘lapwing’.

Lapwing Chick Hiding
Lapwing Chick Hiding

This pigeon-sized green black and white wader calls evocatively as it flaps about on dark rounded wings. A wetland bird with a secret yearning to be a thrush, it stalks insect larvae and worms on farmland. In winter, Irish lapwings are joined by visitors from Britain and mainland Europe. Flocks, tens of thousands strong, were common here but not any more.

The lapwing has fallen on lean times; numbers have declined steadily over the last 40 years. There were 88% fewer breeding pairs in 2008 than there had been in 1993. Kieran Buckley of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), who has been studying lapwings, says that ‘we don’t appreciate how bad things are here’.

Changes in land use and farming practices are blamed for the decline but Kieran fears that the raiding of nests by foxes, rats, stray cats, hooded crows, and magpies is also a factor. Predation, he thinks, could be knocking back any chance of recovery. There’s just not enough habitat, he says, and the little that’s left acts as a magnet for predators.

Two years ago, Kieran and his team began studying the survival of lapwing chicks from nests in a 75ha area of cut-away bog owned by the NPWS at Boora, County Offaly. During the 2014 and 2015 nesting seasons, tiny radio transmitters were fitted to chicks in 41 lapwing broods. The youngsters were, on average, nine days old when ringed. Batteries had a life of about 30 days. Radio signals from the units were picked up on portable receivers using handheld directional aerials.

A unit worn by a chick falling victim to a fox might still transmit after it had passed through the predator’s gut. Each youngster was radio-tracked three or four times per week, revealing the types of terrain it preferred and how far it had moved from the nest. Lapwing chicks normally fledge 35 to 40 days after hatching.

Data from this first phase of the project have now been analysed. The results are revealing. Less than one chick (0.86) fledged per brood. Success rates were similar, irrespective of the terrain in which a nest was located. Some chicks remained close to the nest while others moved considerable distances. Moving did not appear to affect a chick’s survival prospects.

Predation was indeed the major threat to the birds; all but one of the chicks recorded dead had been killed by a predator. Foxes were the main culprits, accounting for 47% of deaths, three adult foxes being responsible for most of the carnage. Predatory birds killed 32% of victims while the identity of the killer could not be determined in 16% of cases. Three-day-old chicks were taken. So were 28-day-old ones.

The overall survival rate of chicks might seem to be disastrously low but, in fact, it’s high enough to compensate for the deaths of adult birds in the population and increase the number of breeding pairs. However, the situation at Boora is not representative of lapwing sites elsewhere.

The lands there are managed for the conservation of grey partridges. With foxes and grey crows being systematically removed, it’s a relatively safe haven for nesting lapwings; 122 broods were recorded during the study period. Only if similar control measures are taken at breeding sites elsewhere in Ireland, can lapwings hope to have a future here.

The research at Boora is supported by Dublin Zoo, Fota Wildlife Park and the NPWS. Kristina Abaruite, Éabhin Byrne, Therese Kelly, Shane Sweeney and Kieran Buckley were members of the research team.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

Trust Lapwing chick survival study reveals some interesting results

  • Lapwing Chick Hiding
    Lapwing Chick Hiding

    Large numbers of hatched chicks do not necessarily equate to a large number of fledged young

  • During this study the breeding productivity of lapwings in Boora was sufficient to offset chick mortality and annual adult mortality and hence to grow the population
  • The level of predator control effort required to achieve the desired conservation outcome may vary according to the habitats locally and the dynamics of predator populations at the site level.
  • Over the two-years of this study, 122 broods of lapwing chicks were recorded in the areas managed for the conservation of the grey partridge.
  • The breeding productivity of lapwings at NPWS lands at Boora may be acting as an important source for seeding other breeding lapwing sites in Ireland.

This study was made possible by the generous support of :

Dublin Zoo, Fota Wildlife Park, National Parks & Wildlife Service & Perdix Wildlife Solutions

Grey Partridge Enthusiast is Wildlife Farmer of the Year

Mr. David Sandford from County Down received the major Agriculture award at an event in Northern Ireland. David has worked with the support of the Trust, the National Parks & Wildlife Service, Department of Arts Heritage & Gaeltacht and the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust UK. Wildlife Farmer of the Year award is sponsored by RSPB received the highest number of entries of all the categories.
David Sandford

For more details go to


A gain for greys in Yorkshire

Issue date: Thursday 2 October 2013
Press Release

A gain for greys in Yorkshire
Leading research charity, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) is delighted to announce the winner of its prestigious Yorkshire conservation trophy dedicated to one of the UK’s most iconic but rare birds – the wild grey partridge.
The winner this year, chosen because of the considerable efforts made to restore the species on his farm, is Stuart Stark of Fridlington Farms Ltd near Sutton on the Forest.

The grey partridge population at Fridlington increased between 2012 and 2013 on the back of a number of broods successfully hatching last summer – an excellent

Stuart Stark of Fridlington Farms (left) receives the Yorkshire Grey Partridge Trophy from Paul Ainscough of sponsor’s Savills.
Stuart Stark of Fridlington Farms (left) receives the Yorkshire Grey Partridge Trophy from Paul Ainscough of sponsor’s Savills.

result given the poor 2012 breeding season, which GWCT scientists have described as “apocalyptic”. Stuart said “We are delighted to have been awarded the Yorkshire Grey Partridge Group Trophy, we will continue to improve habitat so that the number of greys may flourish and adorn the countryside in North Yorkshire.”

Fridlington Farms is a mixed farming enterprise of sheep, pigs, potatoes and cereals with linseed and oil seed rape as break crops. This intensively-managed system provides a mosaic of different habitat types and is supported by dedicated conservation and game cover in order to ensure that the year-round requirements of the grey partridge and other wild game are met.

Stuart is supported by Charlie Garbutt, his keeper, who shares his enthusiasm for the grey partridge. Charlie works closely with the farm team on the location, establishment and management of the habitat as well as ensuring his hoppers are filled through until May and controlling predators during the nesting and brood rearing season.

The Yorkshire Grey Partridge Trophy was presented by co-judge Paul Ainscough of Savills – who kindly sponsored the award. Paul added, “I much enjoyed meeting Stuart and Charlie. It was interesting to hear how the steps they have taken are helping to create a sustainable population of grey partridges on a commercial farm.”

Stuart focuses in particular on ensuring the availability of good insect rich cover to provide food for the freshly-hatched partridge chicks in late June/early July, as they require around 2,000 insects per day during their early weeks!

GWCT advisor Henrietta Appleton said, “Fridlington Farms is a worthy winner as Stuart’s and Charlie’s enthusiasm for what they are doing is evident in the results they are achieving. This is an excellent example of what can be done on an intensively managed farming enterprise given a good working relationship between the farming staff and the keeper.”

For more information about the GWCT’s grey partridge groups or for a copy of the Trust’s Conserving the grey partridge guide please contact Lynda Ferguson on or call 01425 651013.


Lapwing kick off their 2013 breeding season in Boora

Breeding Lapwing in Boora kick off their 2013 breeding season – first nest with full Compliment of 4 Eggs found.

We hope the benefits of wild partridge management continue to support breeding lapwing. The Trust will work with National Parks & Wildlife Service by continuing their survey of breeding lapwing this year