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Hopes rise for hen harrier breeding

18th June 2020

Hopes of a successful breeding season rose today after moorland estates managed for red grouse across the North of England have reported an encouraging number of Hen Harrier nests on their land.

These include six nests in Lancashire, four nests in Cumbria and two nests in Yorkshire.

The dozen nests reported so far this year already matches the total number of successful nests in 2019 from all types of land – which was in itself a record-breaking year with 47 chicks fledging from 12 nests, the majority on grouse moors.

Amanda Anderson, Director of the Moorland Association, said: “This is very encouraging news and further evidence that birds of prey are welcome on land managed for grouse shooting by our members. We obviously have to wait to see how many of the chicks fledge successfully, but the signs are promising that 2020 will be another good year for Hen Harrier breeding.

“It is heartening to see the bird doing better in the north of England with the help of gamekeepers protecting it from predators and encouraging a healthy habitat teaming with prey species. Whilst there is a long way to go, we believe we are on the right track as we try to rebuild the harrier population.”

The government-led joint action plan to aid Hen Harrier recovery has led to 99 chicks since 2016 thanks to partnership collaboration, with 81 of those chicks fledging in the last two years since an innovative Brood Management Trial was launched. Successful nests have increased by 100% since 2015.

Hen Harriers are notoriously poor survivors in the first year with natural mortality affecting at least half of the birds. Satellite tagging of birds helps us understand their movements after they leave the moors with extraordinary journeys recorded to Spain and France. Of the birds tagged last year in the UK, 12 are alive or presumed alive, six are dead or presumed dead and the fate of five is unknown. Persecution of some of the birds whose fate is unknown has been alleged but not established.

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Did You Know?

75% of Europe’s remaining upland heather moorland is found in the UK – but this area declined alarmingly over the latter part of the last century. The Moorland Association was set up in 1986 to coordinate the efforts of moorland owners and managers to halt this loss, particularly in England and Wales.

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