This week’s #FactFriday is all about the Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus).
The Hen Harrier is one of the UK’s most threatened raptors due to declines in their habitat and persecution from gamekeepers as a crucial part of their diet comes from grouse chicks.
Males are a blue-grey colour with a pale underside and black tips to their wings. Females are a mottled brown colour and are often called ‘ringtails’ due to the distinctive banding on their long tails. They have a large wingspan of up to 1-1.2 metres and feed mainly on vertebrates such as voles and small birds.
They can be found on upland heather moorlands of Scotland, including many of the Hebridean islands, Wales, Northern Ireland, Northern England, and the Isle of Man.
During the 19th century, Hen Harriers were eradicated on Scotland’s mainland due to the popularity of game hunting estates, but in recent years there has been greater protection of these magnificent birds of prey. However, not enough is being done to protect these birds and numbers are continuing to decline.
The Hen Harrier is currently included on the Red List meaning that they are of the highest conservation priority.