Best year for hen harrier breeding since 60s, 79% of nests on grouse moors

A graph showing the numbers of successful hen harrier nests, chicks fledged and breeding attempts

Notice the dramatic rise after the trial brood management scheme was introduced in 2018 - this scheme was strongly opposed by the RSPB who pulled out of the Hen Harrier Action plan because of it. - Credit: Countryside Alliance

This year has been the best for hen harrier breeding success in England since the 1960s, with 84 chicks fledged from 24 successful nests spread across uplands in County Durham, Cumbria, Lancashire, Northumberland and Yorkshire.  

Of those 24 nests, 19 (79%) were on moorland managed for grouse shooting. This is the fifth successive year of increases, following a low in 2016 when only eight chicks fledged. The graph shows the breeding attempts, successful nests and chicks fledged over the 36-year period from 1986; in the case of the numbers of chicks fledged, the increases have been dramatic.  

Defra’s Hen Harrier Action Plan, published in January 2016, provides us with the best opportunity to understand the decline of the hen harrier in England. All component parts of that plan, which includes a trial brood management scheme, have a vital role to play in reversing that decline.  

Although initially supportive of the Action Plan, the RSPB withdrew their support just six months after it was launched, citing their opposition both to the trial brood management scheme, and southern re-introduction of hen harriers, as their reasons for doing so.  

However, the trial brood management scheme was undoubtedly successful, as can be seen by the numbers of chicks fledged since Natural England issued its first licence for the scheme in 2018.