Countryside groups call for more help for harriers

Hen Harrier
Hen Harrier
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Wildlife organisations are calling on the Government to do more to protect hen harrier birds and aid the recovery of their numbers across England.

Last year there were just four breeding attempts by hen harriers and 16 chicks fledged, the Moorland Association said, with all of those occurring on or next to moorland that is managed for red grouse.

This year the number of breeding attempts trebled to 12 nests, with 18 chicks surviving in Durham, Cumbria, Northumberland and Lancashire. However, cold and wet weather on moorlands this year led to a lack of prey, the association said, creating poor conditions for wildlife trying to breed. Male harriers not returning to nests caused females to abandon their eggs to search for food.

The six nesting attempts were all in a small area of Bowland that is managed for red grouse and countryside organisations are urging the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to help grow the population of hen harriers across the country.

The recovery plan would include nest management and target wildlife crime, the association said, and also help ensure a sustainable, well-dispersed growth of the harrier population.

Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, said: “This would offer a mechanism to guarantee chick safety and spread the nests to avoid a colony forming in one location.

“Not only would this reduce the impact on ground nesting birds on which they prey, especially red grouse, but also protect against local dangers, like poor weather and predation.

A Defra spokesman said: ‘We are continuing to work with a range of game and wildlife organisations to finalise the Hen Harrier Action Plan.”