Rare Slavonian grebes' choice of lochs studied

Slavonian grebe. Image: RSPB Slavonian grebes were not found at lochs where there were pike

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Factors influencing where one of Scotland's rarest birds chooses to breed have been investigated.

Slavonian grebe are only found on lochs in the north of Scotland and there are thought to be 29 breeding pairs.

RSPB Scotland wanted to better understand their favoured habitat to help guide conservation efforts.

Its study suggested the birds preferred moderately-sized lochs with clear water, an abundance of small fish and plenty nesting sites.

The research, which was part-funded by Scottish Natural Heritage, also suggested the grebes did not thrive on lochs where they had to compete with pike for prey.

Ron Summers, RSPB Scotland's principal conservation scientist, said there was much to be learned about the birds' behaviour.

He said: "This research helps us understand what kind of conditions are suitable for grebes when raising young.

"In this way, we can help ensure suitable habitat is maintained and that the species isn't competing against others, such as pike, for food.

"By considering these measures we stand a better chance of improving breeding success in the future."

Tim Dawson, SNH south Highlands area officer, added: "We'd all like to make sure these striking birds not only remain in the Highlands, but also increase their small numbers. This study is an important first step, giving us information on how to help protect these vulnerable birds."

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