It is believed to be the most intensively persecuted bird of prey in the UK, leaving it on the brink of extinction as a breeding species in England, and so a first attempt by hen harriers to nest in the Yorkshire Dales National Park has been hailed as a positive sign.
Despite their species’ struggles, several hen harriers lingered in the Cumbrian part of the park this spring and a male paired up with two females in a rare example of polygyny in the bird kingdom but a practice common in hen harrier breeding populations.
They attempted to nest in the park, in what was the first such attempt by hen harriers in the Dales for ten years.
While neither nesting attempt was successful, park chiefs spoke of their hopes for a more positive outlook for the species.
One failure happened early in the season, the other midway through the incubation period. With no evidence of human interference, it is thought that both attempts failed because of predation by foxes.
David Butterworth, chief executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, which joined colleagues from Natural England in keeping watch over the birds, said: “The Authority is fully aware of all the issues surrounding hen harriers in the uplands, so it was really encouraging that the birds’ presence was welcomed by all stakeholders.
“We hope that the enlightened attitude towards the presence of these birds is the start of a more positive outlook for this species, which will lead to the hen harrier returning as a regular breeding species within the Yorkshire Dales National Park.”