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Hen harrier chick numbers soar on managed moorland

Chick numbers have improved for the third year in a row

hen harrier

Hen harrier numbers are growing on managed grouse moors

Reports of successful hen harrier nests from around the country raise the prospects of another record-breaking year for hen harrier numbers.

Land managers have reported 24 successful nests on moorland in Northumberland, North Yorkshire, County Durham, Cumbria, Derbyshire and Lancashire. Of the 24 successful nests, 19 are on moors managed for red grouse. It is thought that at least 77 chicks have fledged.

Video footage from three estates in the Forest of Bowland, Durham Dales and Northumberland demonstrate that eight out of ten successful nests are on moorland actively managed for red grouse.

hen harrier numbers

More nests in 2021

Last year 12 of the 19  successful hen harrier nests counted were on moors managed for red grouse and 60 chicks fledged. It was a record-breaking year for hen harrier breeding on grouse moors.

However it is encouraging to see that this year’s data shows a further improvement in the population.

Shooting UK spoke to Richard Bailey, a conservation manager and co-ordinator for the Peak District Moorland Group who said: “The successful nest in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District, Derbyshire, is on moorland owned by National Trust but with a grouse shooting tenant in place and a moorland gamekeeper. The success of this nest is a positive for all members of the Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative, of which Peak District Moorland Group, Moorland Association and National Gamekeepers Organisation are all members.”

Results of hen harrier recovery plan

Hen harrier breeding and the number of fledged chicks have shown increasingly strong numbers since the introduction of the government-led hen harrier recovery plan in 2016 and the brood management trial two years later.

Over 230 chicks have fledged, many are benefitting from being fed additional food by gamekeepers.

Chairman of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO) Liam Bell commented to Shooting UK: “We were a pretty happy bunch at the NGO when we heard this news. Gamekeepers have worked extremely hard to increase numbers of breeding pairs and the success this year really is something to shout about.

“This is a testament to collaborative working between Natural England, teams of keepers and land managers and other partners on the estates. Gamekeepers across the country, and not just in moorland areas, should bask in this news and the great reaction it has received.

“There is a lot of work happening to make the land we manage do more for biodiversity and to provide greater natural capital that benefits all of us. Gamekeepers are at the forefront of much of this work and we look forward to sharing more of these success stories over the coming years.”

hen harrier

“We have the right strategy to help the population to recover to a sustainable level”

Amanda Anderson, Director of the Moorland Association, 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.”