Protected by law, monitored on the ground, and nesting pairs safeguarded around the clock. So why are England’s hen harriers still on the brink of extinction?
England’s most endangered bird, the Hen Harrier, is being intensively and illegally persecuted. These beautiful birds of prey nest on open moorland and feed on red grouse, meaning they are regarded a pest by gamekeepers on grouse shooting estates.
While there is thought to be enough suitable habitats in the country for more than 300 breeding pairs, just four pairs bred in 2014 raising 16 chicks.
Three of these fledglings, Sky, Hope and Highlander, were satellite tagged to track their progress when they flew the nest in the hope that wildlife conservationists could learn more about these increasingly rare birds. Yet both Sky and Hope disappeared over the Forest of Bowland within days of each other. Neither tags nor bodies have been found on the site in which they vanished, raising suspicions that both were destroyed or disposed of.
Volunteers watching the nesting sites have reported that another five male birds have vanished this summer whilst hunting miles away from the nest. Without both adults caring for the eggs, a female hen harrier faces starvation unless she leaves her nest to hunt forcing her to abandon the nesting site and the eggs cooling beyond survival.
It is too soon to say how many successful nests England will have this breeding season, but you can help strengthen their fragile future and ensure no further birds 'vanish'.
How you can help
CROWDFUND AND MONITOR SATELLITE TAGGING OF CHICKS
Help tag hen harrier chicks in the coming years so they can be tracked and monitored. Together with nest protection carried out by the RSPB and raptor group volunteers, this is the best chance of giving the species a future. Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, explains: “Satellite tags provide us with a wealth of information on the hen harriers’ habits and movements, which ultimately helps us protect them from illegal persecution – the main reason they are absent from vast swathes of the UK uplands.
Profits from every Skydancer Far From The Madding Guns bath bomb sold fund equipment to help the RSPB fit chicks born in the coming years with satellite tags. Since the bath bomb's launch in 2015, sales have raised an amazing £101,472 for hen harrier preservation as of March 2016. You can follow the tagged birds online on the RSPB’s dedicated site: http://www.rspb.org.uk/henharrierlife/
HELP BAN THE ‘SPORT’
Sign the e-petition set up by nature conservationist Dr Mark Avery to ban driven grouse shooting for ‘sport’. Driven grouse hunting relies on flushing out a high number of game-birds to guns. The moorland management and pest control involved means that gamekeepers and conservationists have a fundamental conflict of interest when it comes to preserving the birds of prey which hunt grouse.
MARK HEN HARRIER DAY
Join groups around the country raising awareness of these endangered birds. Find your nearest one here: http://henharrierday.org/
KEEP AN EYE OUT
To report a hen harrier sighting in England, you can email [email protected] or phone the RSPB hotline on 08454600121.
To report a hen harrier sighting in Scotland, please contact [email protected].
For more information on the issues of driven grouse moors and hen harriers, visit http://www.raptorsalive.co.uk.