RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE project has fitted more than 10 young hen harriers with satellite tags this summer in Scotland. The EU LIFE funded project tagged birds from the Borders to the Highlands, with the generous support and assistance from of a variety of partners, volunteers, landowners, their managers and staff, and licenced taggers from the raptor conservation community.
Hen harriers are one of our rarest and most persecuted birds of prey. The satellite tags allow the project to follow the lives of the young birds as they strike out on their own. The last British Isles hen harrier population survey in 2016 put their numbers at just 575 territorial pairs, an overall significant decline of 24 percent since 2004. Estimates suggest there should be over 1,500 pairs of hen harriers in Scotland alone.
Before tagging the chicks the project monitors hen harrier nests to understand more about how their breeding success vary year to year and why they sometimes fail. Scotland is the stronghold for these birds in the British Isles with 460 pairs according the 2016 survey.
The information gathered from birds tagged in previous years has revealed important information about how the young birds spend their first few years of life. Two of the birds tagged in Scotland last summer headed over to Ireland for the winter before returning this spring. One of the chicks tagged this year is the offspring of a female tagged in a previous year by the project, providing an opportunity to follow the species through two generations.