Many people talk about the hen harrier problem - but we are often talking at cross-purposes.  Male hen harrier

As far as we can tell, in England, there were only six successful hen harrier nests in 2009 - so we regard the hen harrier problem as being the lack of these birds.  To hear some people talk, hen harriers are everywhere, overrunning the countryside and gobbling their way through red grouse and wildlife like nobody's business.  Those half a dozen English pairs must get around rather a lot!

This summer one of those six pairs nested in a cereal field in southern England - not in the more usual moorland location.  The RSPB was involved with Natural England in protecting this nest - we worked with the farmer concerned and the police.  Just in case the birds return next spring I won't say any more about this pair except to celebrate its existence and to thank all who played a part in its protection.

John Swift, Chief Executive of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, said: “A bad winter has left the hen harrier population even more vulnerable than before – this means that everybody must concentrate on doing what they can to ensure that the moorland habitat continues to be well managed and that persecution is confined to history.".  Well said John - we await others to speak out in the same vein.

And, one more time, as we edge our way ever closer to the 200,000 signatures on our bird of prey pledge - please sign it!



  • Yes when we have been on Mull we have seen Hen Harriers and always make our day so to speak and to watch them working a patch is fantastic but what a pity that we can't really see them in our own country.Lets be optimistic perhaps John Swift is the start of something good for Hen Harriers he must surely be influential.Hopefully praise from RSPB will encourage more like him to put forward more moderate views and lots of ordinary people benefit as I doubt if a lot of people realise what we are all missing with these birds being so rare,they are truly a wonderful bird.

  • Sooty - it is sad that we feel we have to put so much effort into protecting individual harrier nests from illegal persecution.  But thanks for praising John Swift - the good guys need to be recognised and lauded.

    Debby - moving comments - thank you.  

  • Mark - I am sat here with tears as I type this - I cannot believe that this magnificent bird is on the brink in England - only this morning I posted on Twitter that I was watching a male hen harrier hunting at the back of the house and then flew over the garden - something I am indeed priviledged to see quite frequently.  Not only at home but also at Loch Frisa, home to our sea eagles Skye and Frisa where we also have sightings of both male and female hen harrier.  Many people who visit have never seen a hen harrier, indeed some have not heard of them before but all go away with great admiration for this beautiful bird of prey and most add their signature to the Bird of Prey Campaign.  I hope its not too late.  And to repeat Mark's request, please,please, please sign the pledge

  • Yes Mark the Hen Harrier must be one of the most persecuted birds and lets hope John Swift is sincere and can have some influence,it is really great to hear someone like that hoping that persecution confined to history and it seems so out of tune with what is happening that it seems hard to believe but I guess it is frustrating for him that we find it hard to take in.What a wonderful bird it is and when we have seen a male we have said look at that seagull then quickly with a gasp no its a Hen Harrier.Well done for protecting that nest but how sad to have to go to such great lengths when we should be enjoying them.Lets hope that John Swift and others like him can find a way with the RSPB where they can prosper and avoid persecuting these raptors,surely there must be a way and we all know and are sympathetic that raptors take small numbers of their birds but usually the rogue shooters exaggerate these numbers to try and justify what they do.