As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Walkers urged to spot hen harriers

Bird watchers and hillwalkers are being asked to keep an eye out for hen harriers in an attempt to conserve their numbers.

The birds of prey are struggling to breed in some areas, partly due to persecution and disappearing moorland.

In 2010 there were 500 pairs in Scotland, the bulk of the UK population.

The sighting initiative is being launched by the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (Paw) Scotland.

Hen harrier fact file
The male is grey above, white below, with black wing tips.
The female is much larger, and brown, with white streaks below.
The male performs the sky-dancing display to entice a female to mate with him.
Scotland has the bulk of the hen harrier population across the UK.

Members of the public have been encouraged to record where they spot any hen harriers, along with details including behaviour and gender.

The male hen harrier is famous for its spectacular looping "sky-dance", part of an elaborate mating ritual.

The aim is to help Paw Scotland build up a valuable bank of information to help conserve the species for future generations.

Factors in their decline include the loss of moorland nesting habitat and feeding range, eggs and young being eaten by foxes, crows and other predators, and illegal persecution.

The spotting scheme was launched by environment minister and Paw Scotland chairman Paul Wheelhouse.

He said: "The hen harrier is one of Scotland's most fascinating birds of prey - with the male's sky-dancing display one of nature's great sights."

He added: "Unfortunately these birds are not thriving in some parts of Scotland where we know they would find a suitable habitat and we are determined to take action to conserve them.

"This initiative will raise the profile of the hen harrier to provide us with important information about their activity and location, and I hope people across Scotland will join the efforts to conserve this alluring bird for future generations."

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