BASC: Nest management will aid Hen Harrier recovery in England

Hen Harrier

The British Association for Conservation & Shooting (BASC) says that including brood or nest management as part of the Hen Harrier Joint Recovery Plan will assist with the recovery of this iconic bird of prey in England.

Under the oversight of Defra, the plan was drawn up by moor owners, gamekeepers and conservation groups. It is designed to boost hen harrier numbers in the English uplands without damaging the viability of grouse moors.

Work started in August 2012 and the plan – which comprises 6 inter-dependent elements – has been ready since January this year.  It is not clear why it has not yet been officially launched.

BASC says there is no good conservation reason why one of the elements – brood or nest management – should not be included. In France and Spain the introduction of schemes that allow eggs to be collected (where there is genuine conflict with land use) and the chicks released some six weeks later, at designated releasing points, has ensured their birds of prey have thrived – because the root cause of illegal killing has been removed.

The principle of captive-rearing is well established and has been successfully used for a wide range of endangered species – as highlighted by the RSPB’s former Chairman of Council, Ian Newton, in his book Population Limitation in Birds. These schemes are so successful, in part, because captive-reared birds generally have better body condition and better post-fledging survival.  Examples of species that have benefitted from captive rearing programmes are White-tailed Eagles and Red Kites in Britain, and Peregrine Falcons, Ospreys, Condors, Bald Eagles and Aplomado Falcons in Europe and America.

Alan Jarrett, chairman of the UK’s largest shooting organisation, The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), said:   “Nest management is an internationally proven conservation technique, that helps achieve the recovery of threatened populations.  From an international perspective brood management is part of this recovery package to ensure we have a thriving population of hen harriers in England.

“The time has come for Government to publish the plan. It was drawn up by all sides of the debate and is a sensible and sustainable way forward. It aims to deliver more hen harriers, but without damaging the grouse interests that fund essential moorland management.”

BASC is calling on all who care about shooting and conservation to sign an e-petition calling on the Government to publish the plan to increase the numbers of these birds in England.

Richard Ali, chief executive of BASC, said: “We applaud all those who have so far helped to bring the issue to a wider audience by signing the petition and encouraging others to do so and we are asking people to continue to support the petition and raise awareness of it so we can get this plan put into action.”

To view the petition, click here.

BASC has previously warned that calls for the licensing of grouse moors would have significant unintended consequences, causing a loss of valuable habitat and biodiversity and leading to unemployment and rural depopulation. For more information click here.



Brood or nest management is the supervised temporary removal of hen harrier chicks to aviaries. Some six weeks later fledged young are carefully released back into suitable habitat.

In August 2012, Defra officials established the Hen Harrier Sub-Group of the Uplands Stakeholder Forum including representatives from Natural England, the Moorland Association, the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, the National Park Authority and the RSPB. This group has produced a Hen Harrier Joint Recovery Plan. Defra is expected to make an announcement soon on whether the plan will go ahead.

Duncan Thomas, BASC’s North West regional officer, said: “I am delighted to announce that two of the English Hen Harriers nests on moorland where driven grouse shooting takes place have either fledged or will fledge in the next few days in Lancashire. With the full support of the shooting community, this is an enormous step forward in terms of evidencing the clear link between upland biodiversity and driven grouse shooting.”

7 comments to BASC: Nest management will aid Hen Harrier recovery in England

  • Skydancer

    There is no such thing as “upland biodiversity on any moorland used to shoot driven red grouse.”

    The 2 successful breeding pairs of Hen Harrier Mr Thomas referred to each nesting on United Utilities land were protected 24-7 by contractors working for the RSPB. Under the Water Act United Utilities have a statutory duty to protect Hen Harriers on their upland catchments. Their success this year had nothing to do with any organisation or group associated with shooting. Had that been the case why was it necessary to protect the two nests on a full time basis?

  • Circus maxima

    BASC have completely lost the plot, they are terrified that the oiks are no longer responding to their empty promises of cooperation and common interest.
    If they really believed in this approach why don’t they talk about translocating gamekeepers? Apparently they are a really threatened species thats absent from large chunks of the countryside… might be that they have problems breeding but I suspect its because NOBODY WANTS THEM ANYMORE.

  • Julie Wright

    Totally agree with Skydancer, I’ve been walking in the Forest of Bowland & all I’ve seen is Meadow Pipits, a couple of Kestrels, sheep & Grouse, I didn’t see any wading birds, I did hear a Merlin. It’s devoid of life, management of this land is for Grouse only.

  • SteveJ

    Some six weeks later the chicks are released into suitable habitat? To be shot at? Doesn’t sound like much of a recovery plan to me.

  • SAM

    We live on the Forest of Bowland and have had a fabulous year for curlew, lapwings, snipe, oyster catchers, tawny owls, little owls, barn owls, kestrels, wheatears, chiff chaffs, reed buntings, gold finches, green finches, sparrows, blue , great and long tailed tits, woodpeckers, cuckoos, and numerous other bird species. We have seen far less of our regular female hen harrier this year, but an increase in buzzards. Our moor is a grouse moor, but there is no shooting down by the houses, and the bird life seems to be doing pretty well ( no science to back up my comment, just 12 yrs of observation). I have to disagree with the comment about it being devoid of life, it’s glorious and full of life where we are. If only I could name all the little bird species, I could add hugely to the list – my challenge for next year is to get to know all the names. I adore the Forest of Bowland and all the wildlife here, totally stunning, I am so lucky to be surrounded by it every day.

    Editor’s Comment. Sam, we understand that the lady who wrote the original comment was referring specifically to moorland in Bowland used to shoot red grouse, and not the fringe areas around Bowland. We note you say you saw less of your regular hen harrier this year. Did you by any chance see any peregrine this year?

  • Kevin moore

    Sam,that is a good list of birds you get to see where you live. There are other species that have either gone or dramatically declined over the last few years such as the the peregrine, the goshawk and the short-eared owl. There are 2 pairs of hen harrier that can only survive by having 24 hour watch placed on their nests. I have been all over the Bowland fells this spring and summer and what i have seen is plenty of Grouse on the tops and a massive amount of pheasant lower down, yes there are places that still have good numbers of birds in the Woodlands etc, but up on the moors it is virtually devoid.

  • Alan Tilmouth

    BASC claim there is no good reason not to proceed with a plan that includes translocation or brood management yet GWCT scientists published a paper less than a decade ago clearly stating that this method was not a sustainable solution to reducing grouse predation and that it would not be appropriate to even try until levels of illegal persecution were reduced. It is clear that from the almost weekly stories of new cases of oersecuruon of birds of prey that illegal persecution continues apace. DEFRA must be well aware of this and must ensure that brood management is removed from sny proposed plan until the other options designed to reduce illegal persecution have been demonstrated to have delivered a significant recovery in the English Hen Harrier population. The GWCT paper rejecting translocation can be viewed at