White Tailed Eagles Found to be Predating Hen Harriers
White tailed eagles were extinct in the UK in the early 20th century, however efforts to reintroduce them have been so successful that it is estimated there are now approximately 170 breeding pairs in the UK.
This increase in numbers has not been without controversy. In Scotland, where their numbers are highest, local farmers have been up in arms at the extent to which they have predated local livestock, particularly lambs.
One farmer in the West Highlands recently told ITV the white tailed eagles were causing him losses of £30,000 per year due to predation of his livestock.
Efforts to encourage their reintroduction have also been thwarted in other parts of the UK, with concerns being raised over their impact on other endangered species, including curlews and grey partridges.
But recent discoveries by bird groups in the Outer Hebrides have discovered white tailed eagles have another preferred staple for their diet: the hen harrier.
After a BTH colour ring was found in a white tailed eagle pellet near Benbecula in late August by Fiona and John Mhor, further investigation was undertaken.
The ring was later discovered to have belonged to a hen harrier that had originally fledged nearby in the Outer Hebrides.
This discovery is in stark contrast to the information that some organisations would have you believe.
The Roy Dennis Foundation, who have orchestrated much of the white tailed eagle releases in the UK, claim on their website that they are no threat to other wildlife.
Hen harriers are vulnerable to many other predators, beyond just white tailed eagles. Fox predation of hen harrier nests have been common on RSPB reserves in recent years due to the limited, or sometimes non-existent, predator control undertaken by the charity.
There are also many examples of other birds of prey predating hen harrier nests, such as eagle owls and goshawks.
Indeed predation levels from eagle owls on hen harriers reached such an extreme that Mark Avery – the unhealthy bully and one third of Wild Justice – once suggested in an RSPB article that management of eagle owl numbers might be required in order to protect the hen harrier.
Writing on the RSPB website Avery said: “It is hugely important that we reach a decision on eagle owls soon, but that decision has to be based on solid evidence.” This followed CCTV emerging of an eagle owl in Bowland attacking a nesting female hen harrier.
It is important that these facts are remembered the next time a hen harrier nest fails and those with a blinkered extremist agenda against driven grouse shooting begin hysterically pointing the finger at gamekeepers.