Hen Harrier survey results 2023: Numbers improve, but much more to be done

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The RSPB has released the results of the 2023 Hen Harrier survey, which includes the results of the survey undertaken in the Isle of Man in 2022.

Overall, the population has shown a 20% increase in numbers since 2016, but their future still hangs in the balance

The number of territorial pairs is estimated to be 691, up  from 545 pairs recorded in the last survey in 2016.

Female Hen harrier at the nest
Female Hen Harrier by James Leonard

Of those 691 pairs, 653 are found in UK, and 38 in the Isle of Man, which is the highest annual count on the Island since 2004 when the Manx breeding population peaked at 57 pairs.

Despite an optimistic trend, numbers have not returned to their peak of 749 pairs in the 2004 survey.  The new population estimate also represents only a quarter of the potential population their ideal moorland habitat can support. For example, Hen Harriers remain absent from The Peak District and North York Moors in England.

Over half of the 40 territorial pairs counted in Wales were in two Special Protected Areas (SPAs) designated for breeding harriers - Berwyn in Northeast Wales and Migneint-Arenig-Dduallt in the northwest.

Northern Ireland's pairs decreased by about 26%, which is linked to habitat loss, increasingly poor habitat quality, and a range of disturbances. This mirrors a 33% population decrease within the Republic of Ireland in 2022.

For more information Hen Harrier survey results 2023: Numbers improve, but much more to be done (rspb.org.uk)

The Isle of Man Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus Breeding Census 2022 is available at http://manxbirdlife.im/publications/

Hen Harriers are classified as Amber on The Red List, Birds of Conservation Concern in the Isle of Man, 2021 http://manxbirdlife.im/bocciom/