Distribution Britain 498 (33.5%) Ireland 123 (-35.9%)
Numbers breeding: Britain 630 Ireland 180
European status: 9,500 (9% in Britain and Ireland =4)
British population trend: good if persecution stops!
How likely are you to record it? 30 squares (0.7%) Ranked 129=[77=]
These birds were widespread 150 years ago but lost their breeding habitat and were destroyed by gamekeepers. Although they have recovered they are now being shamefully restricted by illegal persecution, mainly on grouse moors. Some populations are doing well ( e.g. Isle of Man) but, recently, the thriving Orkney population has diminished. In Ireland (about 100 pairs in 1998), and elsewhere, declines may be because of maturing forestry plantations new plantings are often ideal nesting sites. The Langholm see page xxx? report showed that they may increase where heather moorland is overgrazed by sheep. It is then replaced by grass and the Meadow Pipits (and other small birds) increase, providing excellent feeding for the Hen Harriers in spring. These conditions are very bad for the Red Grouse. Average of 16.4 breeding females in Wales (1988-94) with nest failures down to predation (foxes, crows, keepers). Breeding numbers would very possibly be doubled if the illegal persecution were to cease. A gradual increase possible, if illegal persecution is reduced, with breeding at coastal marshes of SE England.
Meek, E.R. et al. 1998 Scottish Birds: 19, 290-299.
Potts, G.R. 1998 Ibis: 140, 76-88.
Ridpath, S.M. & Thirgood, S.J. 1997 Birds of prey and red grouse. London: Stationery Office.
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From The State of the Nations Birds
Copyright © 2000 by Chris Mead