Satellite tags to track rare birds of prey

The hen harrier was once widespread across the UK but became extinct in mainland Britain in around 1900 as a result of persecution.  Pic: RSPB Images/PA Wire

The hen harrier was once widespread across the UK but became extinct in mainland Britain in around 1900 as a result of persecution. Pic: RSPB Images/PA Wire

0
Have your say

ONE OF the country’s rarest and most threatened species of birds of prey are being tracked by satellite tags in a landmark new project.

The movements of hen harriers are being closely followed in a pro-active and technological approach to gain a better understanding of the threats they face.

Fitted under special licence from the British Trust for Ornithology, the satellite tags are extremely small, representing less than three per cent of body weight, and do not harm the birds.

The tags transmit the locations of the harriers on a regular basis, and members of the public will be able to follow the movements of two individuals on a new RSPB website launched yesterday. For security reasons, the information online will be shown with a two-week delay.

‘Holly’, the first female harrier, was fitted with a tag in June and was one of three chicks from a nest located on Ministry of Defence land at Coulport, Scotland. Holly fledged in August and is currently in the uplands of central Scotland.

‘Chance’, the second female hen harrier, was tagged in June 2014 and since then she has travelled from her nest in south west Scotland to the RSPB Wallasea reserve in Essex, has crossed the Channel to spend the winter months in the Pays de la Loire region of France, before returning to the UK in spring. But for now, she is currently back in France.

Bea Ayling, manager of the European-funded Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project, which is a joint England and Scotland RSPB initiative, said: “Hen harriers declined by almost 20 per cent in the UK and Isle of Man between 2004 and 2010 so urgent action is needed to help conserve this species.

“By fitting satellite tags to harriers we can track them accurately to see where they go and find out which areas they’re getting into trouble. We can also gain valuable information on breeding sites, nest locations and, should the worst happen, be able to locate and recover the bodies of dead harriers far more easily.”

The decline of hen harriers is largely attributed to persecution. There are an estimated 662 breeding pairs in the UK and Isle of Man but just a handful remain in England.

Back to the top of the page