Another Hen Harrier disappears – River

RSPB press release:

Hen harrier ‘River’ disappears in suspicious circumstances

This is the ninth bird tagged last summer to vanish in similar circumstances

Last transmission showed the bird on a driven grouse moor in North Yorkshire

Police and the RSPB are concerned that the bird may have been illegally killed
The police and the RSPB are investigating the sudden disappearance of yet another satellite tagged hen harrier in North Yorkshire, the county with the worst reputation for bird of prey persecution.

The bird, named River, was one of several hen harrier chicks in England fitted with a satellite tag as part of the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE project last summer (2018). These lightweight tags allow the RSPB to monitor the birds after they fledge.

Her tag’s last known transmission came from a driven grouse moor between Colsterdale and Nidderdale – an area with a history of bird of prey persecution – on 14 November. She was known to have been hunting and roosting in the area for several weeks. RSPB Investigations staff and North Yorkshire Police searched the area, but there was no sign of the bird or the tag. She has not been heard from since.

All birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail. North Yorkshire Police investigated the disappearance, but no information has been forthcoming.

Hen harriers are rare birds which nest in moorland, especially in the uplands of Northern England and Scotland. However just nine nests were recorded in England last year, despite enough prey and habitat to support over 300 pairs. They have not successfully bred in North Yorkshire since 2007.

Over 30 hen harriers were tagged last summer in the UK. Between August and November 2018, nine of these, including a 10th bird tagged in 2017, disappeared at different locations in the UK.

Mark Thomas, Head of RSPB Investigations UK, said: ‘Again we have news of a disappeared harrier, again in North Yorkshire, and again last known to be on a grouse moor. Hen harriers are barely clinging on as a breeding species in England. They should be a common and joyful sight over the moorlands of North Yorkshire, however the reality is most people only know them as being rare and persecuted.

The idea that this bird may have been deliberately targeted is incredibly worrying, especially in the context of eight others which have vanished in similar circumstances. When a tagged hen harrier dies naturally, we expect the tag to continue transmitting, enabling us to find the body. This was not the case here. Instead, there was no trace of the tag or the bird, which is highly suspicious. When hen harriers disappear like this over an area with a history of raptor persecution, it’s hard not to draw conclusions.’.

The RSPB’s latest Birdcrime report showed that North Yorkshire is consistently the worst county in the UK for recorded bird of prey persecution, accumulating significantly more confirmed incidents in the last five years than anywhere else. In 2012, hen harrier ‘Bowland Betty’ was found shot at nearby Colsterdale. A reward was offered but no culprit was identified.

If you have any information relating to this incident, call North Yorkshire Police on 101.

If you know about raptor persecution occurring in your area and wish to speak out in confidence, call the confidential Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101.

If you find a wild bird of prey which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB investigations on 01767 680551 or fill in the online form:


7 Replies to “Another Hen Harrier disappears – River”

  1. The Yorkshire Dales National Park are going to have to have a serious look at what is happening under their noses.The level of Hen Harrier killing in England is a national disgrace,just look at how many of last years young have already died in suspicious circumstances. Yet Amanda Anderson is still harping on about how Grouse moor owners have contributed to 2018 being the most successful Hen Harrier breeding season in a decade and what a success brood meddling has been,even though it hasn’t even started yet (and hopefully never will .)It makes my blood boil.

    1. Ros this is NOT the YDNP it is the Nidderdale AONB, which as a wildlife crime hotspot is at least as bad if not worse than the NP. Sounds like the same estate as Bowland Betty.

  2. I’ve now added River to my listings of Hen Harriers for 2018.
    The name River does not seem to have been given out before, or the fledging location revealed, but must be one of the “more than 30” but not all named in the Skydancer listing of birds.
    I hope that the RSPB puts something on their website which gives the above and preferably further details.
    We can also add the 6 birds which were vanished no trace between February and April 2018 in Middelton in Teesdale, Ruabon moor, Angus glens, Moffat, Longsleddale and Tylwwch. A total of 16 for 2018, so far, from my calculations, and of course these are all satellite tagged birds. How many others vanished in the same way?
    Today is also tyeh day it was revealed to the public that the NGO has no faith in the integrity of Nick Lyall. I suppose I’m not alone in having no faith in the integrity of the NGO. The amazing thing is that Natural England, Defra and the present government in general does not seem to feel about raptor crime as I do.

    1. If 9 birds have disappeared, what is this as a percentage of all Harriers that were tagged in 2018? Without looking up the figures I would guess it is at least 25% Whatever the figure is, is there any reason why the figure for all Hen Harriers should be radically different? If the percentage of tagged birds that “disappear” is representative of the total number of birds that “disappear” then at least 25% of all newly fledged Hen Harriers are killed on grouse moors in their first year. If this is true then surely it should be made public knowledge to help turn the tide against DGS.

  3. Hi Mark, I’m mad and extremely active and I intend to get even more active because that’s what the Grouse shooting industry is good at,getting people to mobilize against them because of their arrogance and illegality.There’s a lot happening don’t you think ! As you say,2019 is going to be a bad year for D.G.S.

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