Natural England data on tagged hen harriers brings fantastic festive news
Natural England have today published their latest data on hen harrier monitoring, tagging and satellite tracking. This year Natural England have been tracking 14 adult birds carrying transmitters fitted in previous years. Five of the older birds attempted to breed in England in 2021, as well as one attempting to breed in Scotland. Two of these nesting attempts failed, as the nestlings were taken by predators, but two others bred successfully. One male tracked harrier raised four young, and another successfully bred with two females, meaning he has now fathered 21 chicks. 84 chicks fledged in England this year, and 17 of these were fitted with satellite tags by Natural England. Seven of these were brood managed birds, and the remaining ten wild-reared. These have all settled into their winter ranges, with two of the 2021 tagged birds crossing to France, and the others birds remaining in the UK.
This is all fantastic news on both counts; firstly that the tagged harriers are breeding successfully, and secondly that the birds are choosing to remain in the UK – in the vast majority of cases living on or near to grouse moors. The report also says that tags on five hen harriers have stopped responding since the summer. Two bodies have been found so they are confirmed dead (although their cause of death hasn’t been established); of the other three, it is unknown why their tags have stopped transmitting. As is so often the case, illegal persecution was mentioned in Natural England's own report on the data, despite the fact that the finding circumstances of the two dead birds "did not suggest that the birds were illegally killed". It is most likely that they died of natural causes, which despite everyone's best efforts, is not an uncommon occurrence.