2016 saw a UK-wide Hen Harrier survey and the results are now out.
The 2016 estimate of the Hen Harrier population for the UK is 545 pairs which is quite a lot less than the 2010 survey’s estimate (633 pairs) and an awful lot less than that for 2004 (749 pairs). However, it is worth pointing out, that it is very similar to the totals for 1988/89 (534 pairs) and 1989 (521 pairs).
Hen Harriers are tricky to survey and their numbers go up and down between years depending on vole numbers so, as I point out in Inglorious (Chapter 1 but particularly pp27-28), it’s probably unwise to read too much into the differences between survey years, but there is no sign of Hen Harriers doing well over the last couple of decades. Incidentally, this year is, both by observation and report, a phenomenal vole year and Hen Harriers should be doing very well. I think we’ll find that is the case in Wales this year but I don’t think English Hen Harriers are being allowed to cash in on a vole bonanza, but we’ll see.
The most recent survey results for each UK country are as follows and I also give the potential number of pairs for each UK country from the Conservation Framework as an indication of how far short the actual numbers fall from what we should see:
Hen Harrier Surveys
- We are missing about 2000 Hen Harrier pairs from the UK.
- Most of the missing Hen Harriers are missing from Scotland.
- The country with the greatest proportionate shortfall from its potential is England where the species has a tenuous hold as a breeding bird.
- Wales and Northern Ireland, have less suitable habitat for Hen Harriers but have shown signs of real recovery in numbers until the results from 2016 – neither country has much driven grouse shooting.
What others say – coming later today
The UK wide survey was carried out from the beginning of April to the end of July last year and as a partnership between RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Natural Resource Wales (NRW), Natural England (NE), the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, the Scottish Raptor Study Group, the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group, Northern England Raptor Forum and Manx BirdLife. It was co-funded by SNH, NRW and RSPB with the fieldwork being carried out by expert licensed volunteers and professional surveyors.
Hen Harrier Day rallies will be held in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland on 5 and 6 August this year – for initial details see here.