Six Nests in a Record Sixth Year for Northumberland Hen Harriers

2020 was a very successful year for hen harriers in Northumberland with birds successfully breeding here for the sixth year in row, making it the best nesting place in recent years in England for this rare bird of prey. The Northumberland Hen Harrier Protection Partnership is pleased to announce that this year, 18 young have taken to the sky from six nests on Forestry England and nearby private land.

Despite the lockdown, Forestry England and Natural England staff were able to monitor the breeding birds and were delighted to discover the six nests. Unlike previous years the weather was not against the birds and all the nests fledged some young. Initially 20 young birds were ringed but two succumbed to predators before they had fully left the nesting areas.

The Hen Harrier Protection Partnership, which is made up of Forestry England, RSPB, Northumberland National Park Authority, Natural England, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Ministry of Defence, Northumbria Police and Local Raptor Experts, have not managed to meet this year but have remained in contact and previous good working relationships enabled monitoring, ringing and satellite tagging to take place.

Tags on previous fledglings over the last six years have revealed that some birds have died due to natural causes including predation, and several have disappeared in suspicious circumstances (not all in Northumberland). Better news from the tags showed that a bird born in 2018 called Sofia who also raised a brood of her own last year, was the best breeder this year; 5 young were ringed in her nest in Northumberland. Dru and Colin, other Northumberland born birds, also nested successfully in Scotland and Yorkshire.

Tom Dearnley Forestry England Ecologist said: “We are delighted that the nation’s forests have again provided a suitable habitat for hen harriers with record numbers fledging this year.
“More than 60 young have fledged over the last 6 years so this partnership work gives future generations the chance to see these magnificent birds in England.”

Natural England Director Rob Cooke said: “It is really great news that the breeding population in Northumberland is going from strength to strength, and this years’ success is a tribute to all those working hard for the survival of this magnificent bird.

“I am very pleased to be able to play our part in this hugely successful partnership, and we are committed to continuing to conserve and enhance this population as well as others across England.”

Gill Thompson chair of the Northumberland Hen Harrier Protection Partnership added: “It is great to know Northumberland is consistently supporting hen harriers that continue to produce young.

“Thanks to the team who were able in this difficult year to continue the work. I was so pleased to hear Sofia was successful again and it shows we can get great information from the satellite tags. We will continue to watch where our birds go in future.”