hen harrier


Northern Ireland’s hen harrier population has declined by over 26% since 2016, with just 34 territorial pairs recorded in 2023, according to recent findings.

This significant drop highlights the plight of one of the region’s rarest birds of prey, which an independent 2011 government report estimated should consist of approximately 150 breeding pairs.

The latest survey, carried out by RSPB NI, the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group (NIRSG), and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera), revealed alarming trends.

Survey co-coordinators Dr. Eimear Rooney and Marc Ruddock from NIRSG noted that volunteers often found areas historically populated by these birds to now be empty.

“The hen harrier population in Northern Ireland is under immense pressure from a range of land management activities and human-mediated threats, leading to extensive and ongoing losses of suitable habitats and widespread disturbances at nesting and foraging habitats,” the NIRSG said.

“The population has been displaced and disturbed for too many decades – things need to change.”

Gregory Woulahan of RSPB NI said: “This is a drastic decline in numbers of hen harriers in Northern Ireland.

“One of the main reasons for this decline was loss of habitat.

“This, coupled with the landscape scale threats and pressures to the species, means we need a coherent, practical and policy-based restoration strategy for the needs of the hen harrier and its habitat.

“Unfortunately, this recent decline mirrors a similar population decrease within the Republic of Ireland in 2022.”

Agriculture Minister Andrew Muir expressed concern over the raptor’s decline. He said action needed to be taken “to stop the decline of this iconic bird”.

“But it can only be achieved through working in partnership with landowners, farmers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and all other stakeholders, to restore and enhance breeding habitats and appropriately manage activities which have the potential to cause disturbance and displacement,” he added.



At Natural World Fund, we are passionate about rewilding the UK to stop the decline in our wildlife.

Donate now and join in the solution!



Leave A Comment