A NEW report has shown mixed results for numbers and breeding success for birds of prey in Scotland.

The report by Scottish Natural Heritage shows some of the most complete statistical trends ever for birds of prey in Scotland, and lays the groundwork to gain even more information about raptor populations in the future.

Looking at emerging trends in the numbers and breeding success for 13 species, it found mixed results: most species are rising, but some are falling.

Certain birds of prey, such as goshawks, buzzards and sparrowhawks, have shown signs of recovery over the past seven years from lows in the past, due to efforts to combat persecution, habitat loss and pesticides.

But where declines continue, the numbers have been stark. Kestrels, a once common and widespread breeding bird, have declined and are now becoming scarce in many parts of Scotland.

SNH's director of policy and advice Ron Macdonald said: "Some birds of prey are faring well - but our report also shows that we still have lots of work to do to make sure that all birds of prey flourish in Scotland.

"We need even more volunteers to help us monitor raptors in Scotland though, so contact the Scottish Raptor Study Group if you could lend a hand (www.scottishraptorstudygroup.org)."

SRSG spokesman Gordon Riddle said: "We're unsure exactly why kestrels have declined. Recent harsh winters may have led to a high mortality, but even before then kestrels were declining. It's likely that these changes are due to a combination of factors, including habitat changes with the loss of rough grassland foraging areas and prey availability.

"Secondary poisoning due to rodenticides and the impact of competition and predation from the recovering raptor populations on kestrels may also be factors. A group led by the RSPB is currently analysing the situation. Although the level of monitoring has improved, there is still a great need for more coverage of this species."

Scottish Raptor Monitoring Coordinator Amy Challis added: "This report paves the way for us to gain a greater understanding of the health of raptor populations in Scotland. The existing dedicated raptor monitoring volunteers have already provided a wealth of information, and it is now a priority for the Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme to build on their work. In light of the findings from this report, we will look at how we can enhance monitoring for, in particular, some of the less rare raptor species, such as kestrels, sparrowhawks and owls."

To download the full report, see http://bit.ly/1GpMTPl.