As we predicted in September “more Hen Harriers will be killed”

Today 18th October 2018, the RSPB announced that Thor, one of the young Hen Harriers tagged as a part of the RSPB’s EU-funded Hen Harrier LIFE project in June 2018, is no more.

Thor fledged from a nest found and monitored throughout the breeding season by NERF members. One of three successful nests in the Forest of Bowland and the first successful breeding since 2015. This year three nests fledged a total of thirteen young.

The satellite tags fitted to Hen Harriers are phenomenally robust and reliable and once again this tag showed no evidence that there was a problem before it catastrophically failed.

We know from the tag data that after leaving the nest Thor stayed in the nest vicinity for several months.

Almost too predictably this young bird recorded its last known fix within only a short distance of where Sky and Hope recorded their last known fixes, in 2014 within a few days of each other.

Sky, Hope and now Thor along with five Natural England tagged Hen Harriers that we know have gone missing, we can only speculate at how many un-tagged birds must have suffered the same fate in this area.

Once England’s last remaining stronghold for Hen Harriers, the Forest of Bowland (an area in the spotlight just a few weeks ago due to the court case surrounding the persecution of Peregrine Falcons at their nest site), is designated as a Specially Protected Area for Hen Harriers, designated to hold twelve breeding pairs. Whilst this would itself be a fraction of the breeding population recorded in the not so distant past, the Forest of Bowland SPA has only managed to produce 6 successful nests in the last 5 years.


Successful Nests











Persecution has been identified by several studies including the UK governments own study “A Future For The Hen Harrier In England” which included the following:

The English Hen Harrier population remains perilously small, with no more than 23 nesting attempts in any one year in the period 2002-2008.

Productivity from successful nests is high, but very few nesting attempts are successful on grouse moors.

There is compelling evidence that persecution continues, both during and following the breeding season. Persecution continues to limit Hen Harrier recovery in England.

Readers should also remember that only a few months ago the representatives of the shooting industry were celebrating 9 successful nests from a total of 14 breeding attempts in the whole of England in 2018. No doubt we will be bombarded with the usual trite condemnations, or silence. Either way nothing will change, the criminals will continue killing Hen Harriers, the industry representatives will tell us that they are the solution to the problem when in fact they remain part of the problem, the Government will ignore the situation, again. So it goes on. The Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group has a new Chair and the response to this incident will be the first test of how the Group will move forward.


October 2018