This August saw the 6th annual Hen Harrier Day, which was set up in 2014 to raise awareness of the plight of these spectacular birds, also referred to as ‘sky dancers’ due to their acrobatic mating ritual displays, which the RSPB says are facing extinction.
Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins said, “Hen harriers are one of the UK’s most beautiful birds, but also one of the most persecuted. The studies from Natural England and the RSBP show clear evidence that hen harriers, and other birds of prey, are being illegally killed over grouse moors. The Government need to take urgent action to protect these birds.”
A 10-year study by Natural England published results in 2019 that showed 72% of the birds that were satellite-tagged were killed, or very likely to have been killed, on British grouse moors, and that hen harriers were 10 times more likely to die or disappear over areas of grouse moor relative to other land uses. However, the number of prosecutions for raptor persecution is almost non-existent. The RSPB’s annual crime report for 2018 stated that there was 87 birds of prey shot, poisoned, trapped or illegally killed, but only one conviction.
Toby added, “I have written to the Environment Secretary to request a review of the driven grouse shooting industry and a commitment to remove licences from moors where raptor persecution is proven. The driven grouse shooting industry has had years to get their act together and address this problem, but they have failed. It is time for the Government to act.”