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Wanted: Hen harrier heroes in Northumberland

Last modified: 11 October 2013

Children taking part in Skydancer activities

Hen harriers are in desperate need of heroes.

Image: The RSPB

The RSPB is looking for young people in Northumberland to help raise awareness about the hen harrier, England’s most threatened bird of prey.

The conservation charity has launched the Hen Harrier Hero Awards, a new scheme where children and young people are encouraged to carry out a range of fun and engaging activities relating to hen harriers and their moorland home.   

This year, hen harriers suffered their worst breeding season in England for five decades, failing to raise a single chick. There was a single nesting attempt in Northumberland but despite round the clock protection, sadly the eggs did not hatch. The last time hen harrier chicks were raised in Northumberland was in 2008.

Hen harriers should be a fairly common sight on the Northumberland moors with historical records from all over the Cheviots and North Pennines. It’s estimated that there is enough suitable habitat in the English uplands for at least 300 pairs. However, the tendency of hen harriers to eat red grouse means that some shooting estates feel they have to illegally kill or disturb these graceful birds of prey in order to protect their stock.

The aim of the Hen Harrier Hero Awards is to educate people about hen harriers and encourage them to care about their future.

Blanaid Denman, who set up the scheme, explains: “Hen harriers are in desperate need of heroes. They’ve been an integral part of British wildlife since records began, yet most people have never even heard of them. By helping to raise awareness about our most threatened bird of prey, the award scheme won’t just help hen harriers, it will also help reconnect children with nature, teaching them about the birds, the upland landscape and the importance of looking after wildlife.”

To become a Hen Harrier Hero, children need to complete six activities from a choice of 15, which are outlined in a special booklet. These include visiting a moor, designing a hen harrier poster and hosting a fun day. Rewards include personalised certificates and stickers, and participants who go on to become Hen Harrier Superheroes by completing ten or more activities will also receive a limited edition hen harrier pin badge. 

The award scheme is designed to complement the national curriculum and is completely free of charge, open to anyone including individuals, families, youth groups and schools. Hen Harrier Hero Activity packs can be downloaded from or for more information, email

The Hen Harrier Awards is part of Skydancer, a four-year RSPB project aimed at protecting and conserving nesting hen harriers in the English uplands. The project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and United Utilities with additional support from the Forestry Commission.

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