Hen Harrier

Hen Harrier

"Circus cyaneus"

The Hen Harrier continue to be the most intensely persecuted bird of prey in Britain. The main threat to the species stems the perception they are detrimental to the number of game bird available to shoot on grouse moors in England and Scotland.


Through our conservation links the centre will continue to support this species in the wild.


Hen Harrier Facts

Circus cyaneus


It migrates to more southerly areas in winter. Eurasian birds move to southern Europe and southern temperate Asia, and American breeders to the southernmost USA, Mexico, and Central America. In the mildest regions, such as France, Great Britain, and the southern US, hen harriers may be present all year, but the higher ground is largely deserted in winter.


The hen harrier is a bird of open habitats such as heather moorland and extensive agriculture. During winter they use a range of habitats with low vegetation, including deserts, coastal sand dunes, pasturelands, croplands, dry plains, grasslands, old fields, estuaries, open floodplains, and marshes.


Preferred prey species can include voles, cotton rats and ground squirrels. Up to 95% of the diet comprises small mammals Supplementing the diet occasionally are amphibians (especially frogs), reptiles and insects.


Breeding on moorland, bogs, prairies, farmland coastal prairies, marshes, grasslands, swamps and other assorted open areas. The nest is built on the ground or on a mound of dirt or vegetation. Nests are made of sticks and are lined inside with grass and leaves. 4-8 eggs are laid. breeding maturity is not reached until 2 years in females and 3 years in males.


The hen harrier is 41–52 cm long with a 97–122 cm wingspan weighing 290  - 750g


8 years old average age in the wild

16 years oldest recorded in the wild

Early mortality mainly results from predation


In the United Kingdom, however, hen harrier populations are in a critical condition, due to habitat loss and illegal killing on grouse moors. In 2012 only 617 pairs remained, representing a fall of 20% from 2004.


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