Hen harrier increase the result of a real conservation effort

By Andrew Gilruth, GWCT Communications Director

Hen harriers in England have just had another record-breaking year: 60 chicks from 19 nests says Natural England, and the RSPB is reporting a further five nests. The significance of this remarkable achievement is illustrated by the fact that English hen harrier Favourable Conservation Status (FCS) is 61 pairs.


Historic fluctuations in hen harrier numbers are attributed to a range of factors, from vole numbers to illegal killing and our summer weather, but the recent increase is also the result of a real conservation effort.

It’s only eight years since we had just one hen harrier nest, prompting the RSPB to acknowledge that the legal protection of nests alone was not working and insisting Defra produce a recovery plan of its own. The plan was swiftly produced and contained six elements, one of which was to trial rearing hen harrier chicks in captivity, before releasing them back into the wild.

It was hoped this would improve their conservation status by providing practical ways that grouse moors could integrate raptors. You can read more about how brood management works here, but it appears we are beginning to see a real boost in the number of chicks being fledged.

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