Hen Harrier

A summary of ‘The 2022 National Survey of breeding Hen Harrier in Ireland’

The 2022 National Survey of breeding Hen Harrier in Ireland, a report collated by members of the Golden Eagle Trust Limited, Irish Raptor Study Group, and BirdWatch Ireland, was recently published by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (Irish Wildlife Manual 147, 2024). This report discusses how the hen harrier population, currently amber-listed in Ireland, is dwindling rapidly, compared to previous surveys.

For this research, breeding was deemed ‘successful’ if at least one fledging was seen within the breeding territory. If no activity was recorded during the third and fourth visits, no fledglings were present, or confirmed by surveyors that breeding was attempted but not successful, the territory was determined a ‘failure’. If surveyors missed their fourth visit in late June to the end of July, or if no record was provided by the surveyor, the territory is classified as ‘outcome unknown’.

The surveys were able to identify 85 confirmed and a further 21 possible territorial hen harrier sites. This is a 33% decrease from the last national survey in 2015. The report also found more than a 70% decrease in female sightings compared to 2015, while male sightings remained stable. Total juvenile sightings decreased by 74% with only 98 sightings in 2022. With a maximum population of 106 pairs in 2022, the hen harrier is at its lowest population size in the last 25 years, with an overall reduction of 50%. Due to this, the population of the hen harrier is now eligible to be given red-list conservation status, which is expected to be implemented in the next Bird of Conservation Concern in Ireland (BoCCI) review, which has the potential to not happen until the next review, that is due in 2027. Overall, the outlook for the hen harrier is poor. However, the authors of the paper give their recommendations as to how to combat this rapidly declining population; through increased monitoring, reducing disturbance to the hen harrier during breeding season, and the implementation of an effective Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan (HHTRP).

Citation: Ruddock, M., Wilson-Parr, R., Lusby, J., Connolly, F., J. Bailey, & O’Toole, L. (2024). The 2022 National Survey of breeding Hen Harrier in Ireland. Report prepared by Irish Raptor Study Group (IRSG), BirdWatch Ireland (BWI), Golden Eagle Trust (GET) for National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS). Irish Wildlife Manuals, No. 147. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Ireland.


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