Species highlight – Hen Harrier

Species highlight – Hen Harrier

Hen Harrier Male Flying

The Hen harrier (Circus cyaneus) is a medium sized ground nesting bird of prey which breeds between April and July in upland areas of Ireland, typically between 100m and 400m above sea level (Wilson et al., 2015). They spend winter at communal roost sites distributed throughout a broader range, including low-lying agricultural areas, blanket bog and coastal reedbeds. Hen harriers traditionally breed in open moorland, but will also use recently established, open canopy conifer plantations for hunting and nesting (Irwin et al., 2012).

Mature male and female hen harriers differ in both size and colour. Females are brown in colour with a white rump and white tail bars, and are much larger than the males, which are grey and white with black tipped wings. Juveniles of both sexes are similarly coloured to adult females until they begin to moult into their adult plumage at the end of their first year (Wilson et al., 2015).

Hen harriers are a protected raptor species which is listed on Annex I of the EU Birds Directive. Six Special Protection Areas, covering a total land area of 1,671km², have been designated for the conservation of the Hen Harrier in Ireland (Moran and Wilson-Parr, 2015). The most recent national survey estimated there were 108 – 157 breeding pairs during 2015, a decline of 8.7% from the 2010 survey. The main pressures and threats facing Hen harriers are forestry, predation, loss of habitat, non-intensive grazing, recreation and roads (Ruddock et al., 2016). Hen harriers are widely distributed within Ireland, however they are particularly concentrated in Cork, Kerry and Limerick (Irwin et al., 2011).

For information about how we can assist you with Hen harrier surveys or ecological monitoring, please contact:

Fiona Mc Auliffe ([email protected])


Paul Byrne ([email protected])


Irwin, S., Wilson, M. W., Kelly, T. C., O’Mahony, B., Oliver, G., Troake, P. and O’Halloran, J. (2011). The breeding biology of Hen Harriers Circus cyaneus in Ireland over a five year period. Irish Birds, 9(2), 165-172.

Irwin, S., Wilson, M., O’Donoghue, B., O’Mahony, B., Kelly, T. and O’Halloran, J. (2012). Optimum scenarios for Hen Harrier conservation in Ireland. HENHARRIER, School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University College Cork.

Moran, P. and Wilson-Parr, R. (2015). Hen Harrier Special Protection Area (SPA) Habitat Mapping Project 2014. Irish Wildlife Manuals, No. 83. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Ireland.

Ruddock, M., Mee, A., Lusby, J., Nagle, A., O’Neill, S. and O’Toole, L. (2016). The 2015 National Survey of Breeding Hen Harrier in Ireland. Irish Wildlife Manuals, No. 93. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Ireland.

Wilson, M., Fernández-Bellon, D., Irwin, S. and O’Halloran, J. (2015). The interactions between Hen Harriers and wind turbines. WINDHARRIER, School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University College Cork, Ireland.

Southern Scientific Ecologist attends Ornithology Survey Workshop

Southern Scientific Services’ ecologist Fiona Mc Auliffe attended an informative workshop run by BirdWatch Ireland and the National Parks and Wildlife Services in Mallow recently. The workshop focused on the annual Countryside Bird Survey (CBS) and The Irish Wetland Bird Survey (I-WeBS). The CBS was initiated in 1998 and monitors

How will Brexit Effect your Contracted Laboratory Service?

As the UK prepares to leave the EU you may be wondering how this will impact your industry. If you currently avail of contract laboratory services in the UK the effects of a no deal Brexit may have major implications on the ability of UK based laboratories to provide a

Increased Private Drinking Water Well Grant

Mr. Eoghan Murphy, T.D. Minister for the Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government has announced a new investment programme for water services in rural areas. This includes an increase to the grant available to homeowners for refurbishment works or installation of a domestic well in rural areas. The maximum

Northern Ireland Soil Testing Requirements

Northern Ireland farmers will soon be required to carry out soil testing on their land prior to using chemical phosphorus-rich manures and phosphorus fertilisers. This requirement will take effect from 1 January 2020 under the Nutrient Action Programme 2019-2022. Farmers receiving the Basic Payment Scheme must comply with soil testing

Cation Exchange Capacity: The Forgotten Test of Irish Soil Analysis

The Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) of a soil is an intrinsic property of the soil. It determines the soils ability to move nutrients from the soil particles to the soil solution where it is readily available for plant uptake. Knowing your soil’s CEC is invaluable when determining your soils fertiliser

Shopping cart
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping