Just a small plea (and a big table)

This table was produced by Raptor Persecution UK and it is a valuable resource because it’s quite difficult to find these figures all in one place anywhere else.  I assume it is correct – RPUK usually are – and it looks right to me, but I haven’t checked it (because it is a surprising amount of work).

My small plea is that we all, everyone, refer to the numbers of Hen Harrier in any year as being the number in the centre column – the number of nesting attempts – and not the number of successful nests (unless we say something like ‘nine successful nests out of 14 attempts’ each time.  I appreciate that number of nesting attempts is not the same as number of pairs (because a pair can re-lay after an unsuccessful attempt, and because some males are bigamous (or occasionally ‘worse’) and so not all nesting attempts have the full attention of ‘Dad’) but nesting attempts is a useful measure. And I appreciate there is a fuzzy line concerning what constitutes a nesting attempt (a pair hanging around? a nest? a nest with eggs?) but so there is with what constitutes a pair.

Obviously, not all nests are successful – and not all nests would be successful even if all gamekeepers were saints and stuck rigidly to the law of the land. Hen Harriers fail through all sorts of reasons and we will never have a year when all the eggs that are laid actually hatch and all the chicks that hatch actually fledge.

That centre column is the one that could conceivably reach 300+ if illegal persecution were removed from the scene (I’d be a bit surprised if it did, but the habitat is there for them) whereas the right hand column will always be a much lower number.

It’s a relatively small thing, but it would make me happy if we did that.


That’s where I was going to end this post but I got slightly engrossed in the matter and so have attempted to come up with my own table which goes back a bit further and includes the number of chicks fledged.  Because there are some small discrepancies between my table and RPUK’s I’ve given the sources for my information.  So I have actually tried to check RPUK’s table – but I’ve no doubt made some errors of my own here.  My point is that it would be good to get this type of thing agreed by all (or almost all) and tabulated somewhere.  I’ll happily take comments and corrections on my version of this table – but you’ll have to give me something to put in the fourth column that states where your estimate is documented, please.

The first few lines of my version of this table come from trying to read off the figures from the graph in the Natural England report from 2008 – A Future for the Hen Harrier in England? It’s surprisingly difficult to read the figures off a graph on a computer screen!


200211?7?22?Natural England 2008
200323?9?29?Natural England 2008
200410?8?28?Natural England 2008
200519?15?36?Natural England 2008
200622?10?36?Natural England 2008
200723?13?43?Natural England 2008
200819?10?31?Natural England 2008
2009126?Guardian 2010 (successful nests only)
201012718+Guardian 2010
Natural England 2015
20119412Natural England 2015
2012114Natural England 2015
2013200Guardian 2013
Natural England 5 Aug 15
20144416Natural England 2015
201512618RSPB, Martin Harper 2016
Natural England 2015
201643?RSPB, Martin Harper 2016
20177310RSPB Skydancer 2017
201814934Natural England 2018
RSPB Skydancer 2018



Natural England 2008 = A Future for the Hen Harrier in England? Natural England 2008.

Natural England 2015 = Press release: Hen harrier breeding season set to be most successful for 5 years.

Natural England 2018 = Press release: Hen Harrier breeding success.

RSPB Skydancer 2017 = Blog: Hen Harrier breeding numbers in England 2017

RSPB, Skydancer 2018 = Blog: The fortunes of England’s Hen Harriers in 2018

Guardian 19 November 2010

Guardian 9 August 2013

RSPB, Martin Harper, 2016 = Blog: Why the RSPB is withdrawing support from the Hern Harrier Action Plan.  25 July 2016


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