Peak District has 'successful breeding year' for most threatened bird of prey

A Hen Harrier photographer in the Peak District Credit: PA

The National Trust has had its most successful breeding year for rare hen harriers in the Peak District for more than a decade.

The charity said seven youngsters have successfully fledged from multiple nests on National Trust land in the High Peak. This follows work with the RPSB and Peak District Raptor Group to encourage birds of prey to live in the national park.

The trust said it had undertaken work including cutting heather to encourage a more diverse range of moorland plants including sphagnum moss, bilberry and cottongrass, helping support wildlife such as small mammals that the birds rely on for food.

The trust is also working with its tenants to ensure they manage the land to support more birds of prey in the area.

Hen Harrier chicks in the nest Credit: PA

Hen harriers are England’s most threatened bird of prey, due to historic persecution and because they prey on red grouse chicks to feed their young, bringing them into conflict with commercial shooting estates.

They have seen numbers increase from a low in 2013 where no birds successfully fledged from nests in England, leaving the bird on the brink of extinction in the country.

Craig Best, general manager of the National Trust in the Peak District, said, “A great deal of work has gone into encouraging more breeding pairs of these majestic birds to the Peak District. However, we want to see more of these important birds of prey in the High Peak, as they play an important role in creating the right ecological balance in the landscape.“

Visitors and residents are being encouraged to help with conservation efforts for the birds by staying on footpaths and keeping dogs on leads during the ground nesting season from the beginning of March to the end of July.