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.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Seven in 10 hen harriers in UK study likely illegally killed

Bird of prey 10 times more likely to die on English grouse moors than other habitats
Tue 19 Mar 2019 16.00 GMTLast modified on Wed 20 Mar 2019 13.07 GMT
Hen harriers are 10 times more likely to die or disappear from or near to English grouse moors than any other habitat, according to a long-term study which reveals the scale of the illegal persecution of the endangered raptor.
An analysis of hen harriers over a decade found 72% of 58 satellite-tagged birds were confirmed or considered “very likely” to have been illegally killed. Just 17% of juvenile hen harriers survived beyond their first year around grouse moors in northern England and southern Scotland, compared with 36% across the Scottish mainland, where persecution has also been recorded, and between 37% and 54% on Orkney, where there are no grouse moors.
The hen harrier is almost extinct as a breeding bird in England, despite scientific studies indicating there is suitable habitat to support more than 300 pairs on English moorland. Conservationists fear the protected bird is being illegally killed by some gamekeepers because it eats red grouse. However, because the birds are killed in remote places, often on private estates, there is seldom evidence of wrongdoing and prosecutions are rare.
The study of 58 birds, fitted with satellite tags by Natural England researcher Stephen Murphy, and published in Nature Communications, found just seven were still flying at the end of the 10-year study period in 2017. Of the dead birds which were recovered, postmortems showed that five had died of natural causes and four had died because they were illegally killed, while the tags of another four birds had failed. The vast majority, 38, simply disappeared, their tags abruptly ceasing to transmit data with no indication of malfunction.

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