Bikers Boot Out French Eagles
Abstract from British Birds
14th June 1996
Noisy motorcyclists rampaging through areas of forest in France have driven out rare breeding Booted Eagles from large areas on the slopes of the Pyrenees.
In the latest issue of the monthly journal British Birds Jacques Carlon describes 1,400 hours of work in the field, from 1982-94, looking at the Booted Eagles which used to breed in the large areas of undisturbed forest.
As the area became richer, scrambler biking became a popular pastime with groups regularly spending hours on end in the forest. The noise drove the Booted Eagles from their traditional haunts with 30% and more sites deserted. The Human disturbance does not stop there. Mountain bikers and four-wheel drive enthusiasts are also getting in to distant parts of the forest and have forced the birds out. They now nest mostly in the very remotest parts of the forest.
Most surprising was the response of the hunting eagles. They have taken to feeding away from the disturbed areas of forest and now hunt over more open areas, including farmland and even towns and villages. Here they find the natural food of Collared Doves and the domestic food of hens!
Tim Sharrock, editor of British Birds, said:'This level of disturbance is not common in Britain but it shows how easy it is to damage the wildlife potential of an area through the thoughtless fun of just a few people. It is really good to know that the Booted Eagles were able to change their behaviour and they now even come to rubbish tips.'