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Hen Harrier

The hen harrier (Circus cyaneus) is a bird of prey. The genus name Circus is derived from Ancient Greek kirkos, meaning 'circle', referring to a bird of prey named for its circling flight. The specific cyaneus is Latin, meaning "dark-blue"

While many taxonomic authorities split the northern harrier and the hen harrier into distinct species, others consider them conspecific.

It breeds in northern Eurasia. The term "hen harrier" refers to its former habit of preying on free-ranging fowl.

It migrates to more southerly areas in winter. Eurasian birds move to southern Europe and southern temperate Asia, In the mildest regions, such as France and Great Britain.


Hen Harrier Life Project

Working cross-border to secure a future for one of the UK's most beautiful and threatened birds of prey. Running until 2019, the LIFE project combines satellite tagging, on-the-ground monitoring, nest protection, investigations work, awareness-raising; and working with volunteer raptor field workers, landowners and local communities to protect hen harriers across northern England and southern and eastern Scotland.

The Project

Hen harriers nest on the ground on upland moors. Their diet can include red grouse, which brings them into conflict with intensive grouse rearing for shooting practices.

Hen harriers had been persecuted to extinction as a breeding bird on mainland Britain by 1900, but managed to recover their population naturally. However, ongoing illegal killing and disturbance threatens to drive the birds to the brink once more. In 2013, hen harriers failed to breed successfully in England for the first time in almost half a century and in Scotland, their numbers fell by 20% between 2004 and 2010.

Hen harriers travel widely so to protect them in one area, we need to protect them wherever they go. Building on existing projects and working with volunteers, landowners, other organisations, and statutory bodies, we aim to create an effective conservation network for hen harriers across the project area.


Satellite Tagging

A key part of the project is the satellite tagging of as many chicks as possible to better understand where they go and identify where they're most at risk. You'll be able to follow online as we track the activities of these fascinating birds.  

Conservation & Monitoring

Working closely with experienced licensed volunteers to monitor hen harriers on the ground, the project is also funding two new full-time Assistant Investigations Officers and providing access to new state-of-the-art technology for remote monitoring and protection.  

Working Together

As well as ensuring good habitat for hen harriers on our reserves, the project seeks to work with and add to existing initiatives and partnerships, such as the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project and PAW Scotland Heads Up for the Hen Harriers Scheme.  

Raising Awareness

The project will work with local communities, schools, game-keeping colleges and landowners across the project area, building on the success of the sky-dancer Project.

For more information RSPB

Birds of Prey