One in three hen harriers fitted with satellite tags last summer as part of a project to monitor the protected birds has disappeared in suspicious circumstances, it has been revealed.
The RSPB fitted more than 30 hen harrier chicks with transmitters last summer as part of its EU-funded Hen Harrier LIFE+ project. The majority of the chicks were tagged in Scotland, in an effort to learn more about where they are most at risk.
Only a few of the birds have survived their first year however. While up to half died from natural causes such as predation and disease, one in three either disappeared or was illegally killed. Among those that vanished was a young female named Marci, tagged at the National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge estate. The raptor was last recorded on April 22 in the Cairngorms National Park. RSPB Scotland said the area near Strathdon, west Aberdeenshire, was “notorious” for bird of prey persecution.
Dr Cathleen Thomas, senior project manager for Hen Harrier LIFE+, said: “We’ve lost about a third of last year’s chicks in suspicious circumstances.
“What’s hardest for me is that we’re taking about humans purposefully killing these birds. It could be an easy fix if people just stopped killing hen harriers.”