Bowland hen harriers: Twenty-two chicks fledge in Lancashire

Hen harrier chicks at Bowland 2019 Image copyright RSPB
Image caption The chicks have fledged from five nests on the Bowland Estate in Lancashire's Ribble Valley

Twenty-two hen harrier chicks have nested successfully on a private estate, the RSPB said.

The young birds of prey fledged from five nests on the Bowland Estate in Lancashire's Ribble Valley.

They were "closely monitored" as the threatened species was "on the verge of disappearing", the charity said.

The beauty spot used to be known as a stronghold for breeding hen harriers before numbers fell by 20% between 2004 and 2010.

James Bray, project officer from RSPB Bowland said the increase this year was likely due to "sensitive management of the estate, ensuring plenty of good nesting habitat, and the fact that hen harriers nested successfully last year".

He added: "I live in hope that one day soon we'll see a return to the 20-30 hen harrier nests that were a common sight in Bowland in the 1980s."

Image copyright RSPB
Image caption The males are known for their courtship ritual known as skydancing

Many of the chicks have been fitted with satellite tags, so the project can follow their progress once they leave Bowland.

Mr Bray said he was "excited" but remained "anxious" about their future.

Hen harriers live primarily on heather moorland and are known for the male's spectacular aerobatic courtship ritual known as skydancing.

But illegal killings, along with destruction of their habitat, are thought to be behind the collapse of their population.

The males are easily identified by their black wing tips.

The females look completely different, with puffy brown plumage that helps camouflage them and their nests.

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