ENGLAND’S most threatened bird of prey – the hen harrier – is teetering on the brink of extinction as a breeding bird, warn experts.
Early reports indicate that only one pair is showing signs of nesting in England.
The bird of prey last bred in the North East in North Tynedale in 2008 and last nested in Geltsdale on the Cumbria-Northumberland border in 2006.
Last year the RSPB has appointed Blánaid Denman, from Gosforth in Newcastle, as engagement officer for its four-year Skydancer project, which aims to protect and promote the conservation of hen harriers across potential breeding areas in Northern England.
Martin Harper, the RSPB’s conservation director, said: “The bird is now perilously close to being wiped out in England as a result of decades of persecution.”
Government-commissioned, independent research has shown that the English uplands could support more than 300 pairs of hen harriers. The authors concluded that persecution associated with the practice of driven grouse shooting, is to blame for the harrier’s plight.
The situation for hen harrier has become so dire, that the RSPB has relaunched its hen harrier hotline enabling the public to report any sighting of the birds during the breeding season in England.