Sudden disappearance of two male hen harriers in Peak District - Derbyshire Wildlife Trust

Reports have come in overnight that two male hen harriers have disappeared in the Peak District.

Hen harrier (female) ©Mark Hamblin/2020VISION
Hen harrier (female) ©Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

The disappearance has led to two active nests being abandoned, each containing five eggs. Meaning the loss of not just two adult birds but also 10 chicks.

Hen harriers, often known as Sky Dancers due to the males swooping aerobatic mating displays, are one of the most endangered breeding birds of prey in the country. Numbers are so low that they are classified in the UK as Red under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015). They are protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

They are really struggling to survive in the Peak District. In 2021 only one pair successfully nested and fledged four young. Breeding remains sporadic in the Peak District with only seven successful nesting attempts in the last 24 years. Three of these have been since 2018, making this disappearance a real step backwards for the species.

Dave Savage, at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust said: “This is devastating. Hen harriers are rare and the loss of up to twelve is huge. Whilst we don’t yet know the reason these birds have disappeared, the extensive history of wildlife crime in the Peak District means we're extremely concerned about what happened. It’s a huge loss for us all, hen harriers should be seen frequently, instead they are struggling due to persecution and the way that the land is managed.”

Hen harriers nest on the ground among the heather of upland moorlands. They winter in the lowlands, particularly around the coast, on heathland and on farmland. Derbyshire Wildlife Trust is set to launch its Wild Peak project which will work to restore large areas of the uplands. It’s part of the Trust’s larger goal to restore and reconnect 33% of Derbyshire for nature by 2030.

Dave continues, “We’re working hard to ensure the uplands are a much better place, for hen harriers, for wildlife and for people, but this is a real step backwards for hen harriers in the Peak District.”

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Posted On: 12/05/2022

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