Walkers urged to keep a lookout for the Hen Harrier

Walkers urged to keep a lookout for the Hen Harrier

Posted on

Anyone who frequents upland areas of the UK to walk, cycle or carry out other outdoor pursuits has been urged to keep a lookout for one of Britain's rarest birds of prey.

The Hen Harrier's breeding season will soon begin again and the RSPB has announced that it needs help from members of the public if it is to help conserve these magnificent birds.

Hen Harriers return to upland heather moorlands in northern England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man from the end of March to mate and raise chicks, where they stay until around August or September.

However, this preference for open areas with low vegetation makes them vulnerable to predation and, sadly, illegal illegal persecution. Anyone who spends time in such habitats in England has therefore been encouraged to look out for Hen Harriers as they enjoy their leisure time, as part of the Skydancer project in this part of the country.

If they are lucky enough to spot one, members of the public can call the Hen Harrier Hotline on 0845 4600 121, or email henharriers@rspb.org.uk. The date and location of the sighting should be reported, along with map references if possible.

The RSPB can then put special measures in place to protect any nests that might exist in that particular area, hopefully ensuring a new generation of chicks goes on to reach maturity.

Director of conservation at the charity Martin Harper said: "Any sighting is extremely important. We have dedicated staff and volunteers ready to protect nests around the clock but we can only do so if we know where they are. I would urge anyone who spends time in our uplands to keep an eye out for these stunning birds and get in touch with us if they see one."

Male Hen Harriers are pale grey, while females and juveniles are brown with a white rump and a long tail striped with a much darker brown.

It might be the courting ritual that draws your attention to them though, as the males will perform daredevil swoops and even aerobatic somersaults in mid-air in an attempt to impress females at this time of year.