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Hen harrier disappearances

hen harrier

The three juvenile hen harriers went missing between 9 and 15 August. Photo Mark Hamblin.

Satellite location tags show three juvenile female hen harriers recently vanished from moors in the Yorkshire Dales, Northumberland and Cumbria.

The red-listed birds, whose UK numbers currently hover around 700 pairs, mainly prey on voles and upland birds such as meadow pipits. ‘Martha’, ‘Selena’ and ‘Hepit’ went missing around the start of the grouse shooting season. Selena had been tagged on United Utilities land in Lancashire this spring.

The RSPB are calling for a licensing system “to act as a meaningful deterrent to raptor crime”. RSPB chief executive Beccy Speight said: “Productivity from nests means nothing if the birds don’t survive.”

The charity said 21 hen harriers had been reported missing in the 12 months to April 2023.

Human persecution is said to account for up to 41% of hen harrier deaths in their first year, though hen harriers are ground-nesters, so their eggs and young are vulnerable to foxes, badgers and goshawks. Loss of habitat when moorland is converted to forestry also affects populations.

All three incidents have been reported to the police and the National Wildlife Crime Unit.

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