Yorkshire estates celebrate successful year for hen harrier breeding as 77 new chicks fledge

Seventy-seven protected hen harrier chicks have fledged on moors in the north this summer as part of a brood management programme run by Natural England.

A hen harrier captured by a hidden camera on the Swinton Park estate in June

Estates in North Yorkshire, Northumberland, County Durham, Cumbria, Lancashire and Derbyshire have reported 24 nests, 19 of them on managed grouse moors.

Among the moors where the endangered raptors have nested are those belonging to the Swinton Park estate near Masham in the Yorkshire Dales.

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In 2020 there were 19 nests and 60 chicks.

Natural England' s brood management trial began in 2018 and gamekeepers from participating estates work with conservation officers to encourage nests and provide additional food.

The presence of hen harriers on grouse moors led to historic tensions as they prey on the game birds, and they have consequently been vulnerable to persecution. There are ongoing police investigations into several disappearances of adult birds on or near northern grouse moors, and many individuals are now satellite tagged to enable Natural England to track their movements and monitor suspicious incidents.

Moorland Association director Amanda Anderson said: “This is another excellent year for hen harrier breeding and the wonderful pictures and footage we are seeing from our members’ moors is truly heartening. Three good years in a row shows that we have the right strategy to help the population to recover to a sustainable level, occupying a much greater area of England.

“The management carried out on grouse moors by gamekeepers provides an ideal habitat for birds of prey, with fewer predators to steal their eggs, and good numbers of prey species such as small mammals and other birds. We will continue to support initiatives that are delivering results for the UK’s hen harrier population.”