Rare male hen harrier 'missing' from Geltsdale reserve

hen harrier in flight Image copyright 2010
Image caption RSPB staff were unable to save the eggs

A rare bird of prey has disappeared from a nest in the North Pennines, the RSPB said.

The male hen harrier, which was nesting at the RSPB's Geltsdale reserve, went missing on 23 May after setting off to hunt.

In the absence of the male to provide food, the hungry female was then forced to abandon her nest of five eggs.

Upland warden Steve Garnett, said the "unexplained" disappearance was "rare" for the birds when a nest was active.

Mr Garnett said: "All of the staff and volunteers who were watching the nest around the clock over the past few weeks are absolutely gutted about the disappearance of the male and the failure of the eggs."

The RSPB lists the hen harrier as a red status species, meaning it is threatened and populations have suffered severe declines in numbers.

In May, three male nesting hen harriers disappeared without explanation in Bowland, Lancashire.

Cumbria Police Wildlife crime officer, Sarah Rolland, said: "There is no criminal investigation surrounding the disappearance of the male bird at the current time.

"However, we are keen to trace the whereabouts of the bird."

Hen harrier (Circus cyaneus)

  • Hen harriers are almost owl-like in their facial appearance
  • The face shape helps the harriers to detect prey by focusing sound waves
  • During the breeding season, males perform a spectacular sky dance, with a series of steep climbs, twists and rolls
  • Hen harriers nest in loose colonies, with males simultaneously raising several broods with as many as seven females

Source: BBC Nature

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