06/12/2013 – New report shows encouraging signs of red grouse recovery in Mayo

Friday 6 December 2013—A new report from the Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht shows a significant increase has taken place in red grouse numbers in the Owenduff/Nephin Complex in County Mayo. The results are linked to an improvement in habitat quality following destocking and appropriate grazing management.

CAP subsidised stocking of sheep in the west of Ireland led to a dramatic rise in sheep numbers in the 1980s and 1990s with an associated increase in grazing pressures on the uplands used by the grouse.  In 2000, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) took a case against Ireland in relation to Ireland’s failure to protect the habitat of the red grouse.

Following the designation of the Owenduff/Nephin Complex as a Natura 2000 site, destocking of sheep from the commonages was recommended. This destocking began in winter 2002/2003 and was a significant step to reducing grazing pressure on habitats within the site.  However, it was not until 2006, when new management prescriptions and obligations were introduced including a mandatory five month off wintering period and an obligation to join REPS or an NPWS farm plan that real habitat recovery began. The associated compensation costs to farmers from 2006 to date have been in the order of €3M.

This new report provides the results of a red grouse survey conducted in 2012, a repeat of a survey that had been carried out in 2002.  The results indicate a population of 790 – 832 individual birds within the Owenduff/Nephin Complex. This is effectively a doubling in numbers since 2002 when the population of red grouse was estimated at 362 – 426 individuals.

The population expansion is also evident from the significant increase in the proportion of survey squares occupied by red grouse, from 50% in 2002 (six out of 12 x 1km squares surveyed), to 100% in the current period. These results are important in the context of the overall status of red grouse in Ireland; a decrease in the population of red grouse of 66 % for Ireland was recorded between the 1968/72 and 1988/91 Bird Atlases.

Welcoming the report, Mr Jimmy Deenihan, T.D., Minister for Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht, said: “The results of the survey indicate that a large increase in grouse numbers over the last 10 years. This shows us that grouse numbers can improve quickly when we take steps that allow their habitats to recover.”


Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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