Hen Harrier

The Hen Harrier is one of Scotland’s rarest birds of prey. While spotted in all UK countries, Scotland homes the majority (505 pairs)... and the most unique! Orkney hen harriers are known for their polygynous nature, with males often choosing to mate with more than one female on the island.

IDENTIFYING CHARACTERISTICS 

You’ll likely spot these birds in open areas of low vegetation. When nesting, that’s usually among the heather of upland moorlands, before returning to the lowlands in winter. Lookout for the distinctive ‘V’ shape they make as they fly, with a wingspan ranging between 100-120 cm.

All hen harriers have a slim build, but differ in colourings depending on the sex. Males bear blue-grey feathering with a white rump, pale underside and black wing tips; contrasting with the speckled brown females, that have a white rump and banded tail.

The diet of a hen harrier, which comprises small grouse and fowl, has become a major source of frustration for farmers. Alongside prey availability and land use, this has led to the bird’s growing endangered status. Today, hen harriers are classified as Red under the UK Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015).

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