Northumberland hen harriers fledge 18 chicks for second year running

The rare hen harrier is going “from strength to strength” in Northumberland after a seventh year of breeding success.

By Paul Larkin
Monday, 9th August 2021, 5:03 pm
Updated Monday, 9th August 2021, 5:04 pm
2021 has been a good year for rare Hen Harrier chicks in Northumberland. 18 youngsters fledged from five nests on Forestry England land and two private estates. Picture by Martin Davison/Forestry England

A group of experts working together on a protection plan for the bird of prey has announced that 18 young have fledged from five nests on Forestry England land and two private estates this year; the same number as last year for the county as a whole.

Northumberland continues to be a great area for hen harriers, with 2021 being the seventh year in a row multiple nests have been successful. Although eight nests were initially detected, birds successfully fledged from five of them.

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, met virtually this year and worked closely throughout the pandemic to co-ordinate nest watches, ringing and satellite tagging.

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2021 has been a good year for rare Hen Harrier chicks in Northumberland, with 18 youngsters fledged from five nests on Forestry England land and two private estates. Picture by Martin Davison/Forestry England.

Birds that were tagged in Northumberland in previous years have returned, including last year’s best breeder Sofia, along with Drew and Colin. Colin’s tag has ceased to work but careful surveillance work by Natural England staff identified him with his tag still in place but unoperational.

Gill Thompson, National Park ecologist and chair of the partnership, said: “It’s great news that from our core population area, birds are now spreading to surrounding land. Thanks to everyone who played their part this year including members of the partnership, the individual raptor workers and the private estate staff. The species is going from strength to strength in the county and I hope we will have even more successful nests next year. I was particularly pleased to hear that Colin, now a full grey adult male, is still doing well and is back in Northumberland after nesting successfully elsewhere last year.”

Tom Dearnley, Forestry England Ecologist, said: “These figures mark the seventh year of breeding success for what is still an exceptionally rare bird. That’s down to an effective partnership and excellent, sensitively managed habitats. There is much more work to be done. But it is pleasing to reflect that Northumberland is now a key stronghold in England for what we hope is a national resurgence of the species.”