Hen Harrier hotline reopens for 2015


As spring gets under way, the RSPB is asking birders who spend time in the English uplands to keep their eyes peeled for Hen Harriers, the country's most threatened bird of prey.

Now in its eighth year, the Hen Harrier Hotline has been relaunched by the conservation charity in the hope of discovering where these birds are potentially breeding.

The main reason the species have reached this crisis point is that it suffers from ongoing illegal persecution, not just in England but across the British Isles. Just last week, there was a case of a female found shot in western Ireland. Last year, conservationists united to hold the first-ever Hen Harrier Day, which proved a resounding success, and this was followed by the launch of a cross-border project aimed at securing a sustainable future for the species.

Hen Harrier
Male Hen Harriers in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. Sights like this should be much more commonplace across upland areas of England (Photo: James Wood)

Hen Harriers breed in remote upland locations so the RSPB relies on birders, walkers and cyclists to inform them of their location. If birds are found and reported, the conservation charity can then put measures in place to protect the nest. The uplands of Northern England should have at least 320 pairs of breeding Hen Harriers, but last year there were only four successful nests in the whole of the country.

Content continues after advertisements

Males are an ash-grey colour with black wing tips and a wingspan of just less than a metre. Females are slightly larger, owl-like in appearance, and have a mottled brown plumage which camouflages them when they nest on the ground. They have obvious horizontal stripes on their tails, giving them the nickname 'ring-tail', and a patch of white just above, on the rump.

The Harrier Hotline number is 0845 4600 121 (calls charged at local rate). Reports can also be emailed to henharriers@rspb.org.uk. Reports of sightings should include the date and location of sighting, with a six-figure grid reference where possible.

Learn more about the RSPB's Skydancer project at the Skydancer website, or follow @RSPB_Skydancer on Twitter.

Written by: RSPB