Before the nineteenth century, many bird of prey species were a common sight in our towns and cities, with red kites being frequent scavengers in London.
The rise of game shooting from the mid 1800s and changes in agricultural practices saw many bird of prey populations begin to seriously decline.
After the Second World War, there was increased use of agricultural pesticides. These gradually built up in the ecosystems of birds of prey. Finally, the balance tipped and many of our once-familiar birds of prey, such as the peregrine and red kite, were slowly driven to near extinction in Britain.
In the 1950s and 60s the tide turned, with the outlawing of certain pesticides. This, along with changing attitudes to what our British countryside was for, meant that many of our birds of prey have increased dramatically over the last half century. Some conservationists state that their recovery is one of the glories of 21st century Britain.
All birds of prey are protected by law, and 2012 saw public opinion reversing a Government plan to allow research into buzzard control to reduce the so-called 'significant' effect of buzzards on pheasant shoots.
In this episode of Saving Species, Brett Westwood discusses what the science and the ecology of birds of prey reveals about their needs and how this fits in to the land use in which they live.
Listen to Saving Species
You can listen to this episode of Saving Species on BBC Radio 4 at 11:00am on Tuesday 23 October 2012. More information and a link to listen again can be found on the Radio 4 website.