Sunday, 3 June 2007

Police identify Hen Harrier as top protection priority

In a video interview released on the RSPB’s website on 1 June, Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom confirms that the Hen Harrier – one of England’s most persecuted birds of prey – is the top wildlife crime priority for police forces.

Chief Constable Brunstrom, who is the wildlife crime representative for England and Wales for the Association of Chief Police Officers, adds there is no doubt this bird of prey is being illegally persecuted.

He said: “If you get caught by the police persecuting a Hen Harrier it is likely that you’re going to go to prison nowadays. The courts have made it fairly clear that in these sorts of offences imprisonment is a reasonable proposition.”

The Chief Constable’s comments about Hen Harrier persecution can be viewed at

His outrage has been echoed by the RSPB’s Julian Hughes, head of the Society’s species conservation department, who said: “Sadly, this magnificent bird of prey is all too often the victim of persecution: we believe this bird’s absence from large swathes of uplands across England indicate the scale of illegal killing and interference this bird faces.”

Studies have shown that the Hen Harrier should occur across most of the uplands of northern England. In recent years, however, only a handful have nested in England. The only regular breeding area in England is the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire.

The RSPB is asking walkers, posties, farmers, birdwatchers and anyone who is out and about in the upland of northern England to report any sightings of this distinctive bird of prey to a special Hen Harrier hotline.

Peter Robertson, RSPB Northern England conservation manager, said: “While people are out working or walking in the uplands of northern England this summer we are asking them to keep an eye open for hen harriers. By reporting their sightings to us, anyone spotting a harrier will be contributing vital information that will help us to protect these rare birds.”

The RSPB Harrier Hotline number is 0845 4600121 (calls charged at local rate). Reports of sightings should include the date and location of sighting, with a grid reference where possible.

Harriers are smaller than a buzzard and larger than a crow. They have long wings and a long tail. They are often seen hunting low over the ground. Male and female harriers have strikingly different plumage. The male has silver-grey upperparts, white underparts and black wing-tips. The female is larger and is dark brown with buff markings on wings and a long grey-brown tail with a white band at the base.

Operation Artemis was launched in 2004 by UK police forces to try to combat the continuing persecution of this species. Hen Harriers are afforded the highest level of protection under English law with legislation providing for custodial sentences.

Source: RSPB