Hen harriers, the RSPB and “persecution” according to the Countryside Alliance.

In a recent article published by the Countryside Alliance their Chief Executive Alice Barnard ridicules RSPB’s assertions that the hen harrier’s current precarious status in England is a result of illegal killing is nothing short of absurd. Apart from the Chief Executives obvious lack of any acceptance of Scientific facts supporting what the RSPB and even Natural England are saying, her lack of transparency or acceptance of the current plight of hen harriers on England’s uplands undermines most of Alice Barnard’s conclusions. The lady makes no mention for example of the hen harrier’s total absence throughout 99.9% of heather moorlands used for red grouse shooting in Northern England. There is also no mention of the fact that sufficient heather habitat in England exists to support at least 330 pairs of hen harrier, but last year only 4 successful nests located on just a single moorland estate in Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland was recorded. The only way to describe what Ms Barnard has written is propaganda of the worst kind. No doubt she is also aware of the loss of the majority of ‘radio tagged’ Hen Harriers from the Langholm project, which curiouslymost have disappeared on Red Grouse moors but of course their bodies were never found!! Judge for yourself, read below what Ms Barnard recently had to say.

The RSPB’s bird of prey officer has recently been claiming that the status of the hen harrier in England is so precarious due to illegal killing that he believes one wet spring or a fire at the wrong time of year could result in it becoming extinct. However, as the RSPB knows only too well, the term extinction is defined by the death of the very last of a kind, and its use to describe the future of the hen harrier is therefore nothing short of absurd; as is its claim that there are only 4 breeding pairs left in England.

In addition to Britain, the hen harrier occurs in a multitude of countries across the northern hemisphere, including North America, Europe and Asia. It has an extremely large population which is currently thought to be 167,000 breeding females, with no significant decline in that population globally. Internationally it is classified as a species of “Least Conservation Concern”, and with 663 pairs in the UK, the hen harrier is more numerate than 7 out of the 15 species of birds of prey in this country. Although only 4 pairs may have bred successfully in England in 2011, many hen harriers can be observed moving around the country throughout the year. The issue, therefore, is that of poor breeding success; not extinction.

There are numerous factors that can result in the poor breeding success of hen harriers, and in 2009 the RSPB and Natural England reported that it was entirely due to natural causes; not illegal persecution as all too frequently claimed by the RSPB. Indeed there have been no confirmed cases of persecution against the species for the last 5 years.

The fact is that hen harriers are vulnerable to predation by foxes and other birds of prey, lack of available prey, unintentional disturbance and by weather and accidental fires; or a combination of any of these. It also appears that there are other factors at play of which we are currently unaware, such as on the Isle of Man, where the RSPB’s 2010 survey found that the population of hen harriers had halved, for reasons still unknown.

We will continue to challenge the RSPB’s assertions of persecution against birds of prey as part of our promotion and defence of the shooting community and the valuable conservation work they do.


6 comments to Hen harriers, the RSPB and “persecution” according to the Countryside Alliance.

  • Coop

    “the hen harrier is more numerate than 7 out of the 15 species of birds of prey in this country”.

    In tests, Hen Harriers were found to be able to count up to 10, and perform simple adding/subtraction exercises. Whereas Goshawk, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Peregrine could only count up to 5!

    These morons don’t even have a simple command of their own language, let alone that of basic scientific fact.

    • Terry Pickford, North West Raptor Protection Group

      I always suspected hen harriers could count, read and understand the simple reason why moorland estate landowners do not welcome their presence on heather moorland used for red grouse shooting. This obviously is the missing link everyone has been looking for. Harriers it seems have more common sense than they are given credit for being loath to trespass hence their conspicuous absence throughout England’s uplands today.

  • John Miles

    Why did I not think of that! Of course it was the Fox that took 326 pairs of Hen Harrier! Hang on then why did the fox not also take all those ground nesting Merlin?

  • paul williams

    Not another story about “Fantastic Mr Fox”

  • paul williams

    Hen Harrier persecution last year in Derbyshire, or is that part of Alice’s Wonderland?

  • David Beattie

    I notice that a number of 663 pairs of hen harrier are said to have bred in UK. Once Scotland becomes independent that will make it only 4 pairs.

    Editor’s Comment, David by the time Scotland becomes independent, if the current trend in England continues there will be no breeding hen harriers.