Hen Harrier facts


Ahead of this weekend of Hen Harrier rallies let’s just recap some Hen Harrier facts:

  • the latest science says there should be 300+ pairs of Hen Harrier nesting in England – this year there were 3 pairs
  • the latest science says there should be c2600 pairs of Hen Harrier nesting in the UK – in the last survey (2010) there were <650 pairs
  • the latest science says there should be c500 pairs of Hen Harrier nesting on grouse moors in the UK – in recent years there have been fewer than 20 pairs
  • the lack of Hen Harriers is due almost entirely to systematic, illegal and unrelenting persecution by grouse shooting interests – grouse moors are sinks for the Hen Harrier population (producing few young and many deaths)
  • the Forest of Bowland SPA was partly designated because it was the stronghold for Hen Harriers nesting in England and has often held double figures of pairs raising 10-120 chicks – this year there were none
  • the Yorkshire Dales NP should be a stronghold of nesting Hen Harriers – none nest there, but quite a few die there, including Bowland Betty, and this year a gamekeeper was photographed setting illegal poletraps on the Mossdale Estate near Hawes and let off with a police caution.

Defra and Natural England are standing by and letting all this happen – they don’t care and they don’t have a clue. They certainly don’t have a plan to save the hen Harrier in England. But we do – ban driven grouse shooting and, for sure, the Hen Harrier will return, and there are lots of other public benefits too. Over 72,500 people are calling for a debate in parliament and you can add your voice here.





27 Replies to “Hen Harrier facts”

  1. I’ve read some comments on social media that pigeon fanciers persecute birds of prey. Is there any evidence of this, Mark? It does make sense, as some of those birds are worth a fortune.

    1. According to the latest RSPB report pigeon people were guilty of 6% of the overall convicted raptor crimes from 1994 to 1014.
      Gamekeepers made up 86%, farmers 6%, pest controllers 2%.

      There are some pretty gruesome images on raptor Persecution UK showing some of the terrible ways criminal Pigeon people have found to kill raptors.

      1. As an afterthought: It is taken as an established fact that the vast majority of crimes on grouse moors go undetected because of their remote locations.
        By inference the crimes of pigeon people are bound to be much more detectable.
        It is safe therefore to assume that gamekeepers make up much more than 86% and pigeoners less than 6% of the overall raptor criminals.

    1. Al99 – I wonder why it took them so long to write that – it doesn’t really say anything does it?

      1. Well I read Mr Coghill’s blog…. still stuck with the old “a few bad apples” groove.

        Dear Mr Coghill…. your whole barrel is rotten. Does not matter what sort of gloss you like to paint on the facade…there is a strong stench and its oozing out of every seam, crack and knothole.

        You can deflect and procrastinate all you like, but your paymasters continue to kill protected wildlife, wreck habitats and pollute while they have pretended to be reformed characters!

  2. Agreed, it doesn’t say anything new. Licensing of DGS has to be the sensible way forward, though. Let’s hope the petition hits it’s target (it certainly looks like it will) and it will be debated in parliament. Fingers crossed!

    1. Al99 – banning driven grouse shooting is the most sensible way forward but 100,000 signatures on the e-petition would allow the RSPB to [promote licensing too. It’s very much in their interests that we reach 100,000 signatures.

  3. As you describe yourself in ‘Ingorious’, I’m also a ‘wishy washy’ liberal minded person, and I worry about banning things, as there are jobs at stake. If walked up grouse shooting continues, will these jobs still exist in the same capacity?

    1. Al99 – fewer of them, but as I described in Inglorious Chapter 6, other roles would emerge. It’s called progress.

    2. As far as i am aware no one has done a study to see if other forms of employment would be comparable. I am pretty sure eco-tourism would bring in more jobs and money to the local economy than grouse shooting. Mull is a good example. Gamekeepers would lose jobs, that seems pretty certain.
      The hidden costs of grouse shooting are enormous and covered in Inglorious.

    3. The shooting industry tends to present the jobs argument in ‘there is no alternative’ terms (or, as an attempted sophistication, ‘the alternative is miles of conifers’). I worry that even we can swallow that a bit too readily. We all have a social conscience and so do those who might support us. But the argument is nonsense. There are plenty of well-researched examples of the greater contribution of eco-tourism, for example Mull and the Cairngorms. And cases where local communities have bought out the moor, or want to, because they could do better. In fact grouse shooting provides very low permanent employment per hectare, and for all the trumpeting the income to local businesses is small. Even the BASC figures, which are no doubt padded to the full, show that. I think economists would call this the opportunity cost of grouse shooting. The question (leaving aside all other ‘ecosystem services’ type issues), is not what income is generated by shooting but what other activity in its place would generate. And very often it would be more. Obviously the position of each moor is different, but ‘there is no alternative’ is the voice of oppressive self-interest.

      1. Funny how loss of jobs is irrelevant when closing down, for example, the British Steel industry, where jobs are numbered in thousands, but so important when discussing killing game birds, where jobs are far fewer.

  4. A lesser known Hen Harrier fact is that when the bottles arrive, there is an unexpected souvenir bottle opener! Well done Bowl and Brewery!!!!!

  5. See a recent post on Raptor Politics concerning the Buzzard licensing controversy. This gives an insight into the restrictions DEFRA may be placing on the free running(indeed free speech)of Natural England.

  6. http://www.birdwatch.co.uk/channel/newsitem.asp?c=11&cate=__16412
    This is an article on the banning of use of snares to kill foxes but instructive.
    I quote “THE government has rejected a vote by MPs to ban the use of snares, the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) has announced. ”
    “. it will introduce a new code of practice drawn up by the shooting industry itself. ”
    but “Gamekeepers have already shown themselves to be incapable of complying with DEFRA’s recommended Code of Practice on the Use of Snares. In its 2012 report, the government department found that although 95 per cent of gamekeepers surveyed were aware of the code, not a single fox snare operator visited during the study was fully compliant with it – a full seven years after it had been introduced.

    Furthermore, in the shooting industry’s own study into ‘break-away’ snares, less than half of the gamekeepers involved had even read the code.”
    Ho Hum

    1. Again, an utter disgrace and a complete dereliction of duty.

      It’s unlikely that voluntary restraint has ever worked as a policy. Why would it?

  7. Mark, congratulations on passing the 73,000 mark! To be fair I think I should replicate a comment I made recently on the ‘Focusing on Wildlife’ blog, which provides its readers with an opportunity to vote on various wildlife issues.

    “I find it very strange and somewhat disappointing that the author of the petition to ban driven grouse shooting paints such a rosy, romantic picture of the history of grouse shooting. Therefore I was not at all surprised to find a majority voting against banning this dreadful ‘sport.’ Was this a misguided attempt on Mark Avery’s part to present a balanced argument? If so, he clearly went too far in the wrong direction. By the time I had read his description of the noble savages working hard on a day on the moor, to feed their families and enjoy the Ewardian heyday, I almost felt like retracting my signature from the petition. The factual part of your essay was almost hidden in a softer tone at the end, Mark, and you seem to have just delivered a great PR article for grouse shooting. Don’t take it up yourself, you might shoot yourself in the foot!”

    After my first reading of the article, I was almost convinced that someone else had written it as a hoax under your name, but it seems to be the case that you were the author. Although very articulately written, it was a very long essay and my suspicion is that most of the readers got about halfway through and just decided to proceed to the vote, when your main arguments in favour of banning driven grouse shooting were towards the end. This appears to be corroborated by the fact that a staggering 83% (1,365) of the respondents voted AGAINST a ban!

    I also suspect there may have been some collusion by shooting interests to drive the vote in this direction, but even so, is it possible you made a strategic error in the structure of the article? This won’t put me off demonstrating at Vane Farm later today, and I’ll continue to promote your petition until its closing date.

      1. What exactly requires explaining? I’m completely on your side, and only trying to provide some constructive criticism.

  8. Good news.

    ‘Despite the cessation of game keepering and diversionary feeding and the virtual absence of voles, hen harriers have bred well on Langholm Moor in 2016. Seven females nested successfully and fledged a total of 25 young (brood sizes between 2 and 5), which were all fitted with BTO and colour rings.’


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