18 English Hen Harrier chicks successfully fledge in 20015

A press release issued today [5th August] by Natural England has announced that there were just 6 successful Hen Harrier nests in England in 2015 with a total of 18 young fledging. The news from Langholme although not as good as last year was perhaps due to the cold and wet weather conditions this year. In contrast to the 12 nesting female harriers in 2014, in 2015, 8 female hen harriers nested on Langholm Moor.  Two females failed, one before laying and the other one during incubation, again probably due to the bad weather. The remaining 6 females (of which one had a replacement clutch after the failure of the first clutch), all of which were diversionary fed, fledged a total of 17 young (broods sizes between 1 and 5), which were all fitted with BTO and colour rings. One male chick was additionally fitted with a satellite tag, its progress can be  followed as usual here.


Female Hen Harrier feeding her 3 chicks, courtesy of  (© Terry Pickford) 

The number of young fledged in England is the same as that in 2010 and up just 2 on last year’s total. And the number of successful nests is also up  from 4 to 6! An additional seventh nest – which was close to fledging young – unfortunately failed late in the season, due to natural causes.

Rob Cooke, Natural England’s Director of Terrestrial Biodiversity, said: “6 nests is a small number, but it is actually more than we have seen in total over the past 3 years – which is a significant and positive step forward. Obviously we need to see many more pairs of these iconic birds nesting successfully and we are actively looking at how we and our partners can build on this positive outcome in the future”

It is very difficult to see how an increase of just two more young fledged can be called significant when, without the threat of illegal persecution there should be many hundreds of pairs of Hen Harriers nesting in England. Earlier this year five male Hen Harriers disappeared, presumed killed, 4 in the Forest of Bowland and 1 additional Hen Harrier from a nest at  Geltsdale in the northern Pennines which resulted in the failure of their nests.

Chairman of the Moorland Association, Robert Benson, said: Grouse moor managers have played a significant role in protecting nests and this year’s success, which is very welcome. However, we need to do more for hen harriers. With government help, via a hen harrier action plan, numbers and the spread of nests next year could be even better, buffering the effects of poor weather and predation.

Fledged chicks are being fitted with satellite tags by the RSPB EU funded hen harrier LIFE+ project and by Natural England, and their progress closely monitored. Satellite tag technology is improving rapidly and these latest tags will provide even more detailed information on how birds move around the landscape and the factors which currently limit the population.


Stephen Murphy the National Hen Harrier coordinator holding a Hen Harrier chick fitted with  satellite tag.

RSPB board spokesman Stuart Housden said: Whilst we’re very pleased some hen harrier chicks have fledged successfully this year, we must recognise there remains a long way to go to secure the species’ future as a breeding species in England. Harriers are still absent from vast swathes of suitable habitat, and are highly vulnerable to illegal persecution. Until this is addressed there is little prospect of a sustainable population in England’s uplands.

You can sign the -e petition to ban Driven Grouse here

Is the RSPB to blame for the loss of England’s rare hen harriers? A related Hen Harrier Article published by the Guardian


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