Hen Harriers in Bowland Forests Get Satellite

June 20, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

While many would argue that hen harriers can be found throughout the the northern hemisphere of the globe, conservationists in England are worried that this attractive bird may soon be a thing of the past in their country. According to research there are just twelve hen harrier nests in Bowland Fell and only two elsewhere in the country. Thus, Bowland Fell is considered to be something of a sanctuary for the bird in England.

As part of efforts to conserve and protect the bird, a number of hen harrier chicks in Bowland Fell have been fitted with satellite tracking devices. Conservationists consider the move to be somewhat crucial since the birds move fast over large distances and it is hard to adequately monitor them without radio and satellite devices. In fact hen harriers can cover approximately 60 miles in one day! This makes it especially difficult to protect the birds since they often leave protected areas and become subject to illegal persecution. Loss of habitat is also a big problem for the bird. These birds may be safe at Bowland Fells and the government announced efforts to boost the protection of this bird by including it on the country’s list of species and habitats for conservation, yet despite earnest efforts to ensure the longevity of these birds they are no longer as widespread as they once were. In the past they used to be widespread and could be found in abundance from the lowlands to the uplands. But now it seems numbers of this bird have dwindled so much – mainly due to habitat loss – that conservationists now fear that the harrier may be lost as a breeding bird in England.

The radio tag and solar-powered satellite tracking devices not only allow conservationists to trace the bird to within 150 meters of their location anywhere in the world, but also provide other vital information such as how active the bird is, what the birds temperature is, where it is roosting and when it dies. The tags were fitted to the chicks of a hen harrier named Olivia. Olivia was one of the first hen harriers to be fitted with this sort of device two years ago. Birds previously fitted with the devices have been coping fine and ornithologists do not expect them to bother the birds.

The program was introduced by Natural England and will hopefully help conservationists to understand why the birds have become so rare in England. Unfortunately the fact that they are more widespread in Scotland means that they are not yet on the UK’s Biodiversity Action Plan list, but that does not mean that steps cannot be taken to try and prevent further losses.

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