The hen harrier (Circus cyaneus), an iconic bird of prey, is heading towards the brink of extinction in England, new figures suggest. There are just four breeding pairs left in England and numbers are declining elsewhere in the UK. Scotland is the traditional stronghold of these raptors, but numbers have fallen 9% since 2010. Numbers in England fell from twelve pairs in 2010 to just four in 2016.
Numbers of pairs in Scotland fell from 505 to 460 over the period, while in Wales they declined from 57 to 35 breeding pairs. In Northern Ireland, pairs fell from 59 recorded in 2010 to 46 in 2016. Longer term figures highlight the dramatic decline in the UK hen harrier population over the past 12 years. The national survey in 2004 pointed to an estimated 749 pairs, meaning hen harrier numbers have fallen by 204 pairs (39%) in the succeeding years.
The North East has emerged as the last refuge for a bird of prey on the brink of extinction as a breeding species in England. Last year there were just four territorial pairs in England - with three out of the nesting attempts being in Northumberland and the other at Geltsdale, just over the county border near Brampton in Cumbria. Two of the Northumberland nests were successful, fledging six young. The other was naturally predated. In 2015 two nests in Northumberland produced eight youngsters.
Sources: BBC News, 28 June 2017
Chronicle Live, 30 June 2017