RSPB launches North Yorkshire bird hotline to protect threatened hen harrier from persecution

An adult male hen harrier carrying a twig in flight. The species is threatened with extinction in England. Picture courtesy of RSPB.
An adult male hen harrier carrying a twig in flight. The species is threatened with extinction in England. Picture courtesy of RSPB.
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A telephone hotline has been set up to report sightings in North Yorkshire of a bird that is threatened with extinction.

The RSPB hopes that by doing so, they will be able to act on information from people who spend time on remote hills and moorlands and protect the breeding sites of hen harriers.

Conservationists believe there is enough suitable habitat in England for around 300 pairs of breeding hen harriers, but only nine successful nests were recorded nationally last year - none of which were in North Yorkshire.

The RSPB claims that hen harriers are teetering on the verge of extinction in England because they are being illegally killed for predating on red grouse, populations of which are needed for driven grouse shooting.

Amanda Miller, the charity’s conservation manager for northern England, said: “We are asking farmers, wildlife watchers, walkers, fell runners, mountain bikers and anyone else who spends a lot of time in the hills of North Yorkshire to keep an eye out for hen harriers and let us know if they see one.

“It’s vital that we find out where they are breeding so we can protect the nests and give their chicks the best chance of survival.”

In spring, male hen harriers perform a skydancing courtship display of swoops and somersaults. If this attracts a female, the male attempts to pass offerings of food in mid-air to further impress her.

Males are an ash-grey colour with black wing tips and a wingspan of nearly a metre. Females are slightly larger, owl-like in appearance and have a mottled brown plumage.

The Harrier Hotline can be reached on 0845 4600121, or email henharriers@rspb.org.uk. The RSPB asks for reports to include the date and location of a sighting, and if possible, a six-figure grid reference and a description of the bird’s behaviour.

The charity’s five-year Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project aims to conserve the species in England and Scotland.