Hen harrier chicks satellite tagged for the first time in Wales

Danny Wyn Griffith

Thursday 10 August 2017

Hen harrier Circus cyaneus, female in flight against blue sky, Geltsdale, Cumbria

A piece of Welsh ornithological history has been made as RSPB Cymru fits hen harrier chicks with satellite tags - a first on Welsh soil.

Er mwyn darllen y datganiad yma yng Nghymraeg cliciwch yma os gwelwch yn dda

Chicks have been tagged as part of the UK-wide EU funded Hen Harrier LIFE Project, with birds tagged on the Migneint Special Protected Area (SPA) and on the Berwyn SPA. By tracking the movements of these threatened birds of prey; RSPB Cymru hopes to build a clearer image of where hen harriers go and where they are most at risk. This is the third consecutive year the RSPB has tagged hen harriers as part of its EU funded programme but this is the first time the tagging has been conducted in Wales.

Following a long history of persecution and eventual extinction, the hen harrier recolonised Wales in the 1950’s. Numbers and breeding range slowly recovered over the following decades to a high of 57 pairs in 2010. Sadly, a national survey during 2016 suggested this recovery may be faltering, with a significant 39% decline in breeding pairs noted between 2010 and 2016. 

Cold and wet weather conditions over a number of breeding seasons, including that of 2016, may have contributed to the decline in the breeding population, with other factors such as changes in moorland management, low prey abundance and predation all being potentially significant. It is also not known currently how high levels of persecution in other areas of the UK might affect the Welsh population, a factor this research may help determine.

RSPB Cymru Senior Conservation Officer, David Smith, said: “We’re delighted to announce the successful satellite tagging of hen harrier chicks for the first time in Wales. This research is vitally important and will advance our knowledge of these majestic birds, allowing us to follow their movements away from the breeding grounds, assess their wintering habitat and survival rates and see if they return to our Welsh moors to breed.”

The successful satellite tagging of hen harrier chicks was made possible thanks to sponsorship from cosmetics company LUSH, who kindly agreed to raise funds through the sales of specially created “Skydancer” bath bombs, funding and expanding the RSPB hen harrier satellite tagging project across the UK.

David Smith continued: “We’d like to thank all the landowners who allowed the tagging work to occur on their land - National Trust, Natural Resources Wales, the many enthusiasts and RSPB staff who assisted with the survey work and the specially licensed tagging team who travelled a great distance to work with these Welsh birds. Hopefully their efforts will be duly rewarded, and we’ll be able to gather crucial information that will help secure a bright future for hen harriers in Wales.”

Last Updated: Friday 11 August 2017

Tagged with: Topic: 2017 Topic: Birds Topic: Conservation Topic: Wildlife Topic: Hen harrier Topic: Wales Topic: Research Topic: Species protection Topic: Wales