Tougher start could help captive-bred game birds

30 January 2020

Tougher early lives could help captive-bred game birds develop survival skills for adulthood in the wild, new research suggests.

The research was carried out by University of Exeter scientists, working with Dr Francesco Santilli from the Italian Hunting Federation.  Their paper The welfare of game birds destined for release into the wild: a balance between early life care and preparation for future natural hazards has just been published in the February 2020 edition of UFAW’s journal Animal Welfare.

Dr Mark Whiteside, of the University of Exeter said: “Our review of the existing research reveals that we know almost nothing about how captive rearing affects the welfare of game birds after they’re released into the wild.  We do know that captive-reared pheasants are much more likely to be killed by predators or suffer starvation after release than wild birds.

We can’t be sure why this is the case. It might be because their early life conditions don’t allow them to develop the right behaviours to survive…. “We’ve been studying what changes would help reduce this problem and it appears that ‘mimicking’ natural conditions in captivity could promote more natural behaviour and make birds better able to cope with natural hazards.”

The paper can be read in full in the latest issue of Animal Welfare.

Paper reference: Madden, J.R., Santilli, F., and Whiteside, M.A. (2020). The welfare of game birds destined for release into the wild: a balance between early life care and preparation for future natural hazards. Animal Welfare, 29(1): 1-18. https://doi.org/10.7120/09627286.29.1.001

For further information on the study, contact the University of Exeter press office +44 (0)1392 724828 or pressoffice@exeter.ac.uk