The RSPB has today [Friday 13 August] welcomed the news from Natural England that hen harriers have had their most successful breeding year in England in over a decade, with 84 young fledged from 31 nesting attempts. This success is reflected on sites where RSPB are involved in nest protection and monitoring.
In Bowland, Lancashire, where the RSPB works closely with landowners United Utilities, all nests were successful with a record of 31 young harriers fledged. And on the RSPB’s nature reserve at Geltsdale four young harriers fledged, the first since 2016. This was despite the disappearance of two male hen harriers, in suspicious circumstances, which was the subject of a police investigation.
Jim Wardill, the RSPB's operations director for the north of England said, “We are delighted to say that hen harriers have had a very good year across the board in England and particularly in locations where the RSPB is involved in site protection and monitoring. This has been very much a team effort, from the volunteers and staff monitoring the nests, to our work with partners such as raptor groups and United Utilities who have been wonderfully supportive throughout.”
The RSPB is hoping that this year’s figures represent a positive turning point for both hen harrier and the future of our uplands. Historical declines of hen harrier have been driven by widespread persecution, often linked to intensive management of land for driven grouse shooting. The Moorland Association, which represents grouse moor owners, recently restated its “zero tolerance towards raptor persecution and wildlife crime”. And the newly formed Aim to Sustain Partnership of nine UK wide shooting organisations is looking to develop and promote sustainable shooting with a key aim to “conserve and improve the environment” and “comply with the law” .
The RSPB says that 24 successful nests this year represent a tentative first step on the path towards a recovering population in England. A Joint Nature Conservation Committee report published in 2015 shows that the full potential for hen harriers on English uplands is 323-340 pairs.
Mr Wardill continued; “We know how important the management of our uplands is for the recovery of these birds and hope that this year’s success signals that attitudes are changing towards issues such as persecution. We are in a nature and climate emergency. Whether the land is managed for water supply, farming, forestry or shooting, we need everyone to work together to build on this success and restore England’s population to the known potential of more than 300 nests.”
Posted on: 13 August 2021