Hen Harrier & Peregrine are likely to disappear as a breeding species from English Red Grouse moors within the next decade, or less.


A box of stuffed HH shot in Bowland (1 of 1)

The 3 stuffed Hen Harriers inside this display cabinet formed a small part of  a larger number of  illegally shot Bowland raptors which were confiscated by Lancashire police under a search warrant from the home of award winning photographer Dennis Green. When police raided Greens home they uncovered several cases of stuffed raptors together with 99 additional stuffed birds stored in the photographers garage, enough material to fill two transit vans. None of Green’s co-conspirators were ever charged with killing any of the exhibits recovered by the police.

Read here the full account of  Dennis Green’s conviction resulting in a prison sentence.

I know what is happening to our so  called ‘protected raptors’ in the Forest of Bowland and on other red grouse moorland in northern England, so does the RSPB and everyone else associated with the conservation of these threatened birds. The problem is no one other than the North West Raptor Group has had the courage to speak out about their demise resulting from systematic persecution throughout the last 40 years. The situation is so transparent its heart breaking to have to sit back and watch these losses continue year after year.

There is no other explanation for the abandonment of 16 Bowland Peregrine territories since 2010, or the disappearance of the 4 male Harriers from the Forest of Bowland and an additional the single male Harrier from the northern Pennines in 2015. The game shooting brigade continue to deny the obvious, covering up the realities of what has been taking place on moorland they manage for red grouse shooting. In the case of the 5 missing male hen harriers it is ridiculous to even consider natural causes for such multiple disappearances from two relative small moorland regions of England within the same season. Throughout the breeding cycle all male raptors are motivated by a strong biological urge to return to their nests with food to feed their mate. This behaviour ensures the success of their eggs and chicks.  In the case of the 5 missing male Hen Harriers, these multiple losses point to one reasonable conclusion, the birds are dead, most likely shot. Dr Derek Ratcliffe was correct, for many decades these birds have been lost at the hands of persecutors not the weather, not a lack of food, or by  predation by other animals.  I firmly believe without immediate proactive action by government, supported by improved effective enforcement by the police to bring an end the persecution of species like Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl and Peregrine these so called protected raptors are doomed to disappear within the next decade from all heather moorland where the red grouse is shot in northern England. Brood meddling is not the answer, the majority of fledged Harriers produced  by such a pointless scheme, providing cannon fodder resulting in more Harriers being shot.

This spring bird watchers in their hundreds flocked to the Forest of Bowland just to catch a glimpse of the male Pallid Harrier. For several weeks the display carried out by this single bird thrilled everyone who took the trouble to walk up the Dunsop Valley. There is no doubt the decision taken by the RSPB to make public the Harrier’s arrival in the Whitendale Valley this year saved the Harriers life, at least during his short stay at this moorland location. The Pallid Harrier has now disappeared from Bowland, and we understand has not been seen anywhere in Britain since it vanished several weeks ago. It is possible the bird has made its way back across the north sea into northern Europe, however this seems very unlikely as someone somewhere would have witnessed the Harriers presence before leaving our shores. There are two other possibility, the Pallid Harrier never left the Forest of Bowland. The Pallid Harrier met an untimely death on moorland well away from the Forest of Bowland. I doubt now if we’ll ever discover the truth.

The RSPB know what happened to all the 5 missing male Hen Harriers in 2015; indeed they may already have their suspicions of who was responsible for this unacceptable outrage. I also know the cause for the demise of the 39 breeding pairs of Bowland Hen Harrier in the early 1970’s and once more in the 1990’s. In both of these periods members of the North West Raptor Group regularly discovered destroyed Hen Harrier nests on all estates in the Forest of Bowland containing smashed eggs, dead Hen Harrier chicks with their heads cut off then left left in their nests by the perpetrators.  During these dark periods the numbers of adult Hen Harriers and Peregrines which simply disappeared from occupied Bowland territories amounted to many hundreds of birds, all presumed to have been shot. Despite the wide scale killing of raptors  across the whole of Bowland since 1974, not one single raptor killer has been so far brought into court to account for this criminal activity.

In the early 1990’s I recall two interviews which the BBC carried with Dr Derek Ratcliffe, English Nature’s former Chief Scientist, and a second interview with the Late Duke of Westminster regarding the collapse of the Forest of Bowland Hen Harrier populations which occurred in the mid 1980’s and again in 1992 and 1993. When the producer of this documentary asked Dr Ratcliffe what in his expert opinion could be the cause for the disappearance of so many Hen Harriers and their eggs, Dr.Ratcliffe replied ” he could only think of one reason, persecution.” You can watch both of these important video clips below, and we should all bear in mind what what Dr Ratcliffe said all those years age about the reason for Hen Harrier disappearances, these reasons are as true today as they were then.



I often wonder what powerful influences are pulling the political strings behind the scenes in this important moorland region of Lancashire designated as an SSSI and SPA? Publicity is the enemy of the persecutor, while silence will always continue to promote such criminal activity.Watch the video below where the BBC are interviewing His Grace The Duke of Westminster at his Forest of Bowland home at Abbeystead about the disappearance of hen harriers and their eggs  in 1992 and 1993.


In 1974 I was invited by Richard Porter head of the RSPB’s species protection to visit Sandy and brief him all about the illegal persecution of both Peregrine and Hen Harrier taking place throughout the Forest of Bowland. I thought I did a good job and I could tell Richard was taking an interest in the criminal activities I was telling him about. However, when I was about the get into my car in the Sandy car park to travel home, Richard told me I should not worry too much as the RSPB would have the problem of persecution in Bowland resolved within the next 5 years. As things turned out historically, Richard’s claim was one of the most optimistic statements I have every had the misfortune to listen too. Here we are forty three years on and the persecution of so called ‘protected birds of prey’ throughout the Bowland region is now much worst than it was all those decades ago. For a second consecutive season there were no breeding Hen Harriers recorded in the Forest of Bowland this year. I am informed there have been no records of successful breeding of Hen Harrier breeding on any English Grouse moor for a second consecutive season. There were however two successful Peregrine nests in Bowland this season, both on moorland owned by United Utilities; at least that’s better than no successful nests. All I know about the Eagle Owl is that reports suggest two nests existed in the spring. One nest containing eggs was being monitored by a camera and supported by the RSPB. I am not aware the eggs hatched or that any young fledged, the RSPB have been particularly silent on this subject so far.


The mutilated remains of several dead hen harriers, their heads and wings torn from their bodies and left in their nests as a symbol of a feudal system of raptor management in the Forest of Bowland in 1985 

Have a look at the Hen Harrier tracking data from 2007 – 2014 released by Natural England in October 2014 via the link below:


If the four birds tagged in Bowland in 2014 are included, we have a total number of Hen Harrier sat tagged of 51 birds. At the time of the NE report ONLY 7 birds (including 2 of the 4 2014 Bowland birds) could be confirmed as alive. 44 sat tagged birds are confirmed dead or missing.

We are very good at telling other countries how to look after their wildlife; we should take a long hard look in the mirror and start taking the drastic action required to protect our own vulnerable species. We should start where we know that nature and climate change are not to blame. These raptors are persecuted illegally by humans. These people should be caught and prosecuted for what they do but sadly are not.

I would have liked to end on an optimistic note, but sadly that is not possible. The loss of the two satellite tagged Hen Harriers (Sky and Hope) in Bowland September 2014 which I believe were shot and their tags destroyed, together with the curious disappearance of 5 male Hen Harriers  which each disappeared in the spring of 2015 from nests in Bowland and the Pennines has now paved the way for more of the same to come. There is simply no mechanism to prevent these criminal activities happening time after time; removing licenses from experienced raptor workers who had made a difference up until 2010 simply plays into the hands of the persecutors making it that much easier for them to get away with the crimes they commit. I see little advantage in the short term of producing more Hen Harrier chicks in Bowland, or upon any red grouse moor for that matter in northern England, if the end result only produces missing Hen Harriers. Brood management is a complete dead duck and would only serve to make a bad situation much worse by providing more birds to be used as target practice.


Related Articles.

RSPB publish last known locations of the two missing satellite Tagged hen harriers ‘Skye’ & ‘Hope’. 

Peregrine ‘holocaust’ looms on northern England’s upland – A final solution.

Video Version: Peregrine holocaust looms on England’s Uplands.


Terry R.Pickford

North West Raptor Protection Group

2 comments to Hen Harrier & Peregrine are likely to disappear as a breeding species from English Red Grouse moors within the next decade, or less.

  • Adam

    Given the fate of the Bowland Hen Harriers, it’s obvious what happened to the beautiful Pallid Harrier. During a period of bad weather it disappeared, when watching friendly eyes would have been very few and their visibility greatly restricted by the weather, a gamekeepers opportunity to do their nasty business. Another sad ending of another fantastic bird. I can’t prove this, but it’s very highly unlikely that I’m wrong.

    Editor’s Comment, Sadly Adam you may be correct, otherwise someone somewhere would have reported seeing the bird.

    • Adam

      Exactly! That poor bird could not have chosen a worse place to go to in all of England. Sadly though only 5 or 6 years ago it would have been one of the safest places for a Harrier to set up home! The Bowland story is a national scandal of wildlife crime at its worst!