The hen harrier, a beloved resident of Scotland’s heathland, is reported to be at high risk of becoming extinct. Although figures in 2015 showed the greatest reported breeding success rate of the raptor, with 6 successful nests and 18 newly hatched chicks, the suspicious disappearance of 5 males resulted in nesting failures. According to the latest annual survey there has been a decline of 88 pairs (13%) over the last 6 years, despite suitable habitat environments for 300 breeding pairs.
This alarming decline is attributed to the destruction of habitats, cold and wet weather conditions and illegal killings. Unfortunately, the hen harrier is a natural predator of the red grouse which causes conflict with the interests of gamekeepers and farmers. High numbers of hen harriers in moorlands owned by private landowners are associated with decreased red grouse density and therefore increased shootings in the interests of commercial estates. Despite being protected under both UK and National Law, it is often surmised that this bird of prey continues to be killed illegally.
The LIFE project, run by the RSPB (http://www.rspb.org.uk/), has been set up as a way to help preserve the hen harrier population through satellite tagging, conservation and ground based monitoring. The project also aims to raise awareness of this endangered bird of prey in local communities and schools. Despite these efforts, this species is still endangered and perhaps an increase in prosecution would help protect this species.