Derbyshire Wildlife Trust opposes Hen Harrier Brood Management announcement by Natural England

Hen harrier at The Avenue Washlands, Barry Clark

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust is strongly opposed to any human interference in the nesting of hen harriers, one of England’s rarest nesting birds.

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust is strongly opposed to any human interference in the nesting of hen harriers, one of England’s rarest nesting birds.

On 16th January, Natural England, the government's adviser for the natural environment, announced they have issued the first licence to allow the removal of hen harrier chicks and eggs in Northern England to a hatching and rearing facility.

Natural England announced the chicks would be hand reared and then released in the uplands of Northern England in the future in an attempt to protect them from illegal persecution.  

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust believe hen harriers are currently too rare for this approach.

Tim Birch, Head of Living Landscapes North at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust said, “Brood management for hen harriers should not even be considered until there's a strong and sustainable population.”

He added, “In 2017 there were no hen harriers breeding at all in Derbyshire and there were just a handful of sightings of this magnificent bird. Across Northern England the numbers of breeding birds were pitifully low.”

“One of the reasons for the birds struggle is illegal persecution linked to grouse moors. Given that the hen harrier is virtually extinct in many areas of our uplands it is even more shocking that brood management of these birds has now been sanctioned by a Government body.”

“The problem is the plan does not address the bigger picture of wildlife persecution – Where could wild hen harriers raised in captivity be safely released to in our uplands if illegal persecution still continues? Until there is a commitment and real evidence that illegal and unacceptable persecution of hen harriers has ended to allow the population to recover, brood management should not be an option.”

Hen harrier chick, Tim Birch

Hen harrier chick, Tim Birch 

“Furthermore, current hen harrier populations on nature reserves and/or public land which pose no threat to game interests should never be used in brood management schemes because there is no threat to their survival. Natural England should state this in their management plan.”

“Natural England’s approach raises wider issues about our uplands and what we want our uplands to become. It is not just hen harriers that are struggling on our moorlands; goshawk and peregrine falcons are being persecuted as well as mountain hare, stoats and weasels are being persecuted too. Poor land management such as burning of the moors or overly managed areas are leading to a reduction in peat bogs and an increased flooding risk downstream.”

“We believe there is an exciting future for our uplands in the Peak District if we look at a different way of managing this land. We want to see a wilder uplands, full of wildlife. There are exciting opportunities for re-introductions of species in Derbyshire’s uplands, species such as red squirrel, pine marten and even golden eagles. A wildlife rich future in a wilder uplands will be good for people, wildlife and the local economy. We believe now is the time for change in our uplands. Brood meddling with hen harrier chicks does not solve the underlying problems in our uplands. It is time for a new exciting approach.”

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust believes that rather than preventative measures such as this new management plan, a clear message must be sent to land owners and managers (including grouse moor owners), policy-makers and the public that the illegal persecution of hen harriers and other birds must stop now.


Media enquiries: contact Kaite Helps at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust on 01773 881188.