• How to ID a hen harrier

    With the launch of the Hen Harrier Hotline and our harriers once again taking to the skies, community engagement officer, Roisin Beck Taylor, takes us through some of the birds that can be commonly mistaken for hen harriers and how to identify them.

    Hen Harrier – Circus cyaneus

    The hen harrier has many nicknames – one of the most common is ‘ghost of the moor’ and it is easy to see why. The male hen harrier’s grey…

    • 24 Apr 2019
  • The Hen Harrier Hotline is open!

    As spring arrives we’re asking you to keep your eyes to the skies and you may even spot some skydancing! Project Manager Dr Cathleen Thomas tells us how you can help us to protect hen harriers.

    For anyone new to the blog, hen harriers are a bird of prey that breed in the uplands, principally on hills with heather moorland. They are the UK's most threatened bird of prey and on the brink of extinction as breeding bird…

    • 4 Apr 2019
  • Working with the next generation of gamekeepers

    Hen Harrier LIFE project Community Engagement Officer Roisin Taylor reflects on her experiences working with gamekeeping students and finds reasons to be optimistic about the future of England’s hen harriers.  

    Regular readers of this blog will know that the world of hen harriers can be difficult. Following the elation of the breeding season and new chicks making their way into the world , we then enter a seemingly…

    • 28 Mar 2019
  • New study reveals widespread illegal killing of hen harriers on England’s grouse moors

    A new study has provided compelling evidence that many young hen harriers in England are being illegally killed in areas associated with grouse shooting. The RSPB’s Head of Nature Policy Gareth Cunningham discusses the significance of this scientific research and what we think needs to happen next.

    Published in Nature Communications yesterday, Revealing patterns of wildlife crime using satellite tags: a case study…

    • 19 Mar 2019
  • Vulcan's fire goes out

    Another hen harrier, Vulcan, has now sadly joined the ‘missing in action’ list.

    Vulcan was tagged in Northumberland in the summer of 2018, along with over 30 more hen harriers in England, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man. Almost half of these birds barely had time to make their mark on the world, entering and leaving it almost in the same breath. Vulcan is the 11th tagged hen harrier to disappear in similar…

    • 28 Feb 2019
  • Hen harrier ‘River’ disappears in suspicious circumstances

    Yet another of 2018's hen harrier chicks has disappeared in suspicious circumstances. Today the RSPB issued the following press release:

    River, who hatched from a nest in Bowland in 2018

    The police and the RSPB are investigating the sudden disappearance of yet another satellite tagged hen harrier in North Yorkshire, the county with the worst reputation for bird of prey persecution.

    The bird, named River, was one of…

    • 17 Jan 2019
  • What is the RSPB doing to protect hen harriers?

    Earlier this week, Hen Harrier LIFE Project Manager Dr Cathleen Thomas took a look at how the UK's hen harriers had fared in 2018. Now she gives an overview of some of things that the RSPB is doing to help them.  

    Here at the RSPB, we’re doing everything we can to protect hen harriers. Coming into the final year of the Hen Harrier LIFE project in 2019, our project team have already spoken with almost 12,000 members…

    • 19 Dec 2018
  • Reflections on 2018

    As we reach the end of 2018, Hen Harrier LIFE Project Manager, Dr. Cathleen Thomas, looks back over the year.

    Working on the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE project is a rollercoaster of emotions. Scientific studies estimate that here in the UK we have enough suitable habitat to sustain a thriving hen harrier population of around 5,000 birds, yet the 2016 hen harrier survey found there are only around 1,000 birds left…

    • 17 Dec 2018
  • Another hen harrier disappears in suspicious circumstances

     Arthur became the ninth tagged hen harrier in three months to vanish in similar circumstances in the UK

    In November we reported that a rare hen harrier had disappeared in North Yorkshire, triggering an investigation by the police and the RSPB. This was the ninth bird to disappear in suspicious circumstances in just 12 weeks.

    The bird, named Arthur, hatched from a nest in the Peak District the summer of 2018. This was the…

    • 11 Dec 2018
  • Four hen harriers disappear on Scottish grouse moors in suspicious circumstances

    Dr Cathleen Thomas, Hen Harrier LIFE Project Manager, reports on the sudden disappearances of four more tagged hen harriers in Scotland in suspicious circumstances.

    Following our recent blogs on the suspicious disappearances of Hilma, Octavia, Heulwen and Thor, I’m deeply saddened to report the suspicious disappearances of a further four birds in Scotland: Athena, Margot, Stelmaria and Heather.

    This brings us…

    • 6 Nov 2018
  • Thor is no more: First hatched hen harrier in Bowland for three years disappears in suspicious circumstances

    This summer we were overjoyed to have hen harriers nesting in Bowland for the first time since 2015. Our project team worked round the clock to monitor the three nests there, and the parent birds fledged an amazing 13 chicks between them.

    Young hen harriers were fitted with tags as part of the RSPB’s EU-funded Hen Harrier LIFE project and we watched with anticipation as the chicks grew and started to fly away from their…

    • 18 Oct 2018
  • Hen harrier class of 2018

    Dr. Cathleen Thomas, Hen Harrier LIFE Project Manager, introduces the new cohort of tagged hen harriers for 2018.

    We were overjoyed this summer when we tagged an unprecedented amount of hen harrier chicks across the UK. The team hiked over bogs, moorland and mountains, often during heat wave conditions, to locate the nests and used their specialist expertise to fit lightweight tags to each feathery bundle.

    After the…

    • 6 Oct 2018
  • Three more hen harriers disappear suddenly

    Dr Cathleen Thomas, Hen Harrier LIFE Project Manager, reports on the sudden disappearances of three more tagged hen harriers in England and Wales in suspicious circumstances.

    Just weeks after celebrating the breeding success of hen harriers in the UK this summer, the sobering reality of the continued illegal killing of our birds of prey was brought firmly into light with the suspicious disappearance of three satellite…

    • 13 Sep 2018
  • Meet the new hen harrier heroes

    Following on from a successful breeding season, we speak to Jack Ashton-Booth and Tom Grose, our newest Assistant Investigations Officers, investigating hen harrier persecution in England and Wales. Here we get to know them and their work a bit better…

    You’re both keen birders. What’s been your best ever birding moment?

    Jack: My highlight was in October 2013 witnessing 299 rough-legged buzzards migrating…

    • 7 Sep 2018
  • UK Government needs an independent inquiry into driven grouse shooting to deliver 25 Year Environment Plan

    Earlier this month, Les Wallace launched a Government petition calling for an independent review of the economics of driven grouse moors. Our Head of Nature Policy Gareth Cunningham explains why we are calling for a full independent inquiry that not only looks at the economics of grouse moor management but also the role of regulation in the industry.

    Les Wallace’s petition raises interesting questions. It requests that…

    • 30 Aug 2018
  • Our response to Natural England’s publication of raw data of tagged hen harriers

    On the 25 August Natural England published the raw data from tagging 158 tracked individual hen harriers. Publication of this data is something which the RSPB has previously called for.

    It’s good to see that the data will be finally used as the basis for a scientific and peer-reviewed paper “The dead tell no tales – but perhaps their tracking data can? Exploring associations between ‘disappearing’ hen harriers…

    • 29 Aug 2018
  • The fortunes of England's hen harriers in 2018

    As the breeding season draws to a close, we take some time to reflect on the breeding success of hen harriers in England in 2018.

    Hen harrier numbers have been declining steadily in England over the past few decades. It is well known from independent research that the main reason for this decline is illegal killing of these birds associated with driven grouse moor management in northern England.

    Last year, hen harriers…

    • 31 Jul 2018
  • We Will Win

    Today we have a guest blog from Dara McAnulty, the young Fermanagh naturalist, who reminds us that there's always something we can do to help hen harriers.

    I remember the first time I wittingly saw a raptor, I was five and I became entranced. The RSPB visited my school soon after to talk about red kites and the fascination grew into obsession. I constantly scanned the skies for a glimpse of majesty.  

    The hen harrier…

    • 30 Jul 2018
  • Nos da to our tagged Welsh hen harrier: Lia’s journey is over

    Hen Harrier LIFE Project Manager, Dr. Cathleen Thomas, shares the sad news of the loss of a second tagged hen harrier in Wales in suspicious circumstances.

    At this time of year, our Hen Harrier LIFE project team are very busy monitoring birds, protecting nests and satellite tagging juveniles. As we get caught up in the elation and optimism that a new generation of this rare bird brings, it was a timely reminder of their…

    • 24 Jul 2018
  • Six ways you can help hen harriers

    Hen harriers are in trouble – that’s not news to anyone. The RSPB continues to urge the government to crack down on illegal persecution in the uplands in a bid to give these birds a chance to re-establish a stable population in England.

    But is there anything you, me, your friends and your family can do? Well, yes there is, and some of these things you can do right away. Together we can change the tide and…

    • 23 Jul 2018
  • More good hen harrier news in Bowland

    Last month we reported that hen harriers had bred successfully for the first time in the Forest of Bowland since 2015, with two nests, both containing four chicks. Shortly after, the final egg on the second nest hatched very late, making it five. 

     Now we can reveal there is a third nest on the United Utilities Bowland estate, boasting four male chicks.


    The third nest in Bowland. Photo: James Bray


    As part of the…

    • 13 Jul 2018
  • Hen harriers breed in Bowland

    Recently, it’s been one bad news story after another on this blog with many reports of our satellite-tagged hen harriers disappearing in unexplained circumstances. 

    So, it makes a nice change to give you some good news.

    I’m delighted to report that, for the first time since 2015, there are hen harrier chicks at Bowland in Lancashire.

    RSPB wardens discovered two hen harrier nests on the United Utilities…

    • 7 Jun 2018
  • Silent spring? Saorsa, Finn and Blue all suddenly disappear

    Hen Harrier LIFE Project Manager, Dr. Cathleen Thomas, reports on the sudden disappearance of three tagged hen harriers in suspicious circumstances

    With the arrival of spring, we look forward to the warmer weather kickstarting the growth of new flowers as buds burst into life. Animals start to appear again, some rousing sleepily from their hibernation. We dust ourselves off after the long winter, ready for a summer of…

    • 22 May 2018
  • Same Old Story?

    Today we have a guest blog from Findlay Wilde, a 16 year old conservationist, ringer, birder, environmental blogger and campaigner. Findlay is working hard to protect nature, and raise awareness about hen harrier persecution.


    Whenever I get asked to write a blog about my thoughts and feelings towards hen harriers, I start with such enthusiasm, but as I get into the detail I feel my energy start to fade, in just the…

    • 28 Mar 2018
  • Another Skydancer lost: Aalin disappears in Wales

    Dr. Cathleen Thomas, RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE Project Manager explains that today we have more sad news about another bird, this time from the Hen Harrier Class of 2016.

    The population of hen harriers on the Isle of Man almost halved between 2004 and 2010, dropping from 57 to 29 pairs. No one was quite sure why this might be, but one theory was that young hen harriers could be migrating to the UK mainland and not…

    • 21 Mar 2018