Conservationists link grouse shooting to a spate of mysterious vanishing of England’s most endangered breeding bird of prey
Tuesday 2 June 2015 17.19 BSTLast modified on Tuesday 2 June 201517.21 BST
The mysterious disappearance of a fourth hen harrier from a nest in the Pennines this spring has renewed fears that England’s most endangered breeding bird of prey is being persecuted towards extinction.
The RSPB and Cumbria Police have launched an appeal for information after the male bird vanished on 23 May from the RSPB’s Geltsdale reserve, where it had established a nest with a female. Without the male providing food for the incubating female, her clutch of five eggs was abandoned.
Wildlife campaigner Mark Avery called for driven grouse shooting to be banned after the latest spate of disappearances, which many conservationists fear are linked to the management of moors for grouse, a prey species for the hen harrier.
“Nobody knows what’s happened to these four birds but these disappearances just don’t happen in a normal hen harrier family,” said Avery, former conservation director at the RSPB . “We know it’s the most persecuted bird in Britain. There should be about 2,600 pairs in the UK and there are 600-800 pairs. The reason that there are so few is because of persecution and the only people interested in persecuting hen harriers are people who run grouse moors.”