Hen Harriers could be lost from English countryside
by Alan Harten
December 22, 2008
Hen harriers are on the verge of extinction in England, a damning report by Natural England has warned.
Illegal hunting and killing of the bird of prey, along with destruction of their nests, has caused numbers to dwindle at an alarming rate in most areas of the UK.
Natural England and RSPB both lay the blame on private landowners and game keepers, who see the bird as a pest as they will hunt for young grouse, a resource that such landowners protect very carefully.
So successful has the hunting of the hen harrier been, that in parts of Britain, such as on moors used for rearing red grouse, only 26% of breeding couples have managed to produce and raise fledged chicks.
This is in stark contrast with the RSPB and Natural England protected area of the Bowland Fells in Lancashire, where 65% of breeding couples successfully raised fledged chicks.
This is the only area in the UK where the birds are protected from harm, due to most of the land being owned by the Queen, the Duke of Westminster and United Utilities rather than private landowners.
The hen harrier has been extinct in the UK before, after being hunted to extinction in Victorian times.
They were reintroduced into Scotland, where there are now 630 breeding pairs, between the wars, and they slowly re-colonized England.
However there has been a dramatic fall in numbers since the 1970s, prompting the conservation bodies to warn that this magnificent bird of prey may again be lost from England’s countryside.
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