The RSPB has asked people in the uplands of north east England to keep their eyes peeled for hen harriers, England’s most threatened bird of prey.
Now in its seventh year, the charity has relaunched its Hen Harrier Hotline in the hope of discovering where these birds are potentially breeding.
The uplands could have at least 320 pairs of breeding hen harriers but last year not a single chick was raised in the whole of England.
Amanda Miller, Conservation Manager for the RSPB in Northern England, said: “This lack of breeding success is not through lack of effort.
“The male is famous for his spectacular courtship display known as ‘skydancing’ in which he tries to attract a female with a series of high altitude swoops and somersaults. It’s like nature’s equivalent of the Red Arrows.”
The main reason hen harriers have reached this crisis point is that the species suffers from illegal persecution.
In addition to their diet of small birds and mammals, hen harriers sometimes eat grouse, which brings them into conflict with the grouse shooting community. Sadly some game managers feel they must kill or disturb harriers to protect their stock.
Amanda continued: “The English hen harrier is on the edge of extinction as a breeding bird.”
The Harrier Hotline number is 0845 4600121 (calls charged at local rate).
Reports can also be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Reports of sightings should include the date and location of sighting, with a six-figure grid reference where possible.