Hen harrier in England (IN7.8)


The hen harrier was once a widespread and fairly common bird in Britain and there are breeding records from many English counties from the early part of the 19th century. Numbers declined as a result of changes in habitat, for example the drainage and cultivation of marshes and heathland, and because of persecution by those seeking to protect poultry or gamebirds. By the end of the 19th century the hen harrier had been lost from mainland Britain and only a small population survived in the Hebrides off western Scotland and on Orkney.

Nestlings are delicately fed small pieces of flesh by the female until they are old enough to tear prey apart for themselves. Laurie Campbell / NHPA

After the Second World War the hen harrier started to make a comeback, probably due to a reduction in the number of active gamekeepers and a corresponding drop in the intensity of persecution. Northern England was recolonised in the mid-1960s and in the 1970s and 1980s up to 25 nesting attempts were made each year in Cumbria, Derbyshire, Durham, Lancashire, Northumberland and Yorkshire. It was hoped that this was just the start of a more complete recovery but this was not to be. The population did not increase further and, to the contrary, from the mid-1990s there has been a significant decline in the birdís fortunes.

Successful hen harrier breeding attempts in England

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