First time rare hen harrier chicks hatch in the Forest of Bowland in two years

Rare hen harrier chicks have hatched in Lancashire moorland for the first time in two years.

Thursday, 7th June 2018, 3:03 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th June 2018, 2:38 pm
Some of the hen harrier chicks

Two hen harrier nests were discovered on the Bowland Estate, owned by United Utilities, in early spring.

RSPB wardens have been monitoring them closely ever since.

The nests are housing eight healthy chicks in all - four in each nest.

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A single male hen harrier is responsible for both of the nests and he is currently taking food regularly to them.

James Bray, the RSPB’s Bowland project officer, said: “It is fantastic news that hen harriers are breeding once again on the United Utilities Bowland Estate after two barren years.

“It’s an incredibly nerve-wracking time for all involved in protecting these birds, especially for the team that have been constantly monitoring the birds since they arrived on the estate in April.

“The male hen harrier is doing a fantastic job of keeping the chicks in both nests well fed and we’re doing all that we can to ensure that they fledge safely.”

Hen harriers are much-loved birds of prey that nest on hills and moors and are famed for the male’s spectacular aerobatic courtship ritual known as skydancing.

However, they are on the verge of extinction as a breeding bird in England owing to ongoing illegal persecution associated with driven grouse shooting.

Although experts estimate there is sufficient habitat in Northern England for at least 300 pairs, last year there were only three successful nests in the whole country.

The Forest of Bowland used to be known as England’s last remaining stronghold for breeding hen harriers.

However, until this year, hen harriers had not bred successfully there since 2015 when a single chick fledged.

County coun Albert Atkinson, chairman for the Forest of Bowland AONB Joint Advisory Committee, said: “It is very heartening to hear that hen harriers are once again back in the Forest of Bowland and nesting on United Utilities estate.

“As a Partnership, we are working hard to ensure this iconic bird of Bowland has the best chance of re-establishing as a breeding species in the area.”

Nature conservationists now hope that the arrival of the eight chicks may mark a reversal in the fortunes for the hen harrier in Bowland.

The RSPB is working in partnership with United Utilities and their tenants to give hen harriers the best chance to breed successfully.