Four rare Hen Harrier chicks fledge in Derbyshire

One of the big announcements came today when four extremely rare Hen Harrier Chicks fledged in Derbyshire, England. They were predated by hunters and owners of estates where grouse hunting was popular as well as ‘land management practices’. They are now protected under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act.* In North America, the Hen Harrier is called the Northern Harrier while in France it is the Buzzard of St Martin.

Hen Harriers are a bird of prey like most of the birds that I write about. They are related to kites, hawks, and eagles. Have you ever heard of them? or seen one?

The males are pale grey as in the image below. The primaries are a dark espresso colour. Here the male is flying low over the countryside looking for prey.

“Hen Harrier” by ressaure is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Here is an image of the underside of the male Hen Harrier.

“Hen harrier male, Circus cyaneus” by peter.v.b is marked with CC0 1.0

The females are brown as are the juveniles with a white rump and long barred tail. The females are often called ‘Ringtails’ because of the bars or bands on the tail. Like the Honey Buzzard their heads are rather small in comparison to other raptors. They will measure no more than 42 cm with a wing span of 120 cm. They weight less than a pound at 300-400 grams. Hen Harriers eat small birds and mammals. Besides flying low and finding prey, they also use the cover of bushes in the woodlands to surprise and take their prey on the ground (normally).

“Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus)” by gilgit2 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

When hen harriers are courting, they do a fabulous sky dance or rolling and tumbling. The Hen Harriers normally lay 4 to 5 eggs in a nest on the ground or in cattails or long dense grass. The male and female both take care of the chicks but the males provide the food. They hunt it and when successful pass the prey to the female by tossing it at them mid-air. They would make great softball players!

Look carefully at the image below. Notice that the facial features of the Hen Harrier look like an owl. Like owls, they have a parabolic facial disk which allows them to hunt by sound (like owls) as well as their incredible ‘hawk’ eyes.

“Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus – Albanella reale)” by Lorenzo L M. is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

*There continues to be the debate between the grouse hunting societies and those that protect birds and want grouse hunting banned. Any number of associations who do not support the killing of animals are active in supporting the reintroduction of the Hen Harrier. You can do a simple search on Goggle for ‘Hen Harrier Myths’. There is even a Hen Harrier Day celebrated in the Highlands of Scotland.

Other Bird World News:

Foulshaw Moss Osprey Cam, Cumbria: After waiting and moving about sticks, Tiny Little (Blue 463) was prey calling and in flew big sibling chasing after Dad or White YW. 464 took the fish and then flew off with it. Poor Tiny Little.

Nasty older sibling!

WBSE in Sydney Olympic Park, Australia: Well, they just can’t stop getting cute!

Collins Marsh Nature Centre, Wisconsin: Malin is looking really good to me. I focused on her wings whenever I checked in. She has been fed and the feathers look grand. I can also see four bands or bars on the tail now so Malin is continuing to grow and develop.

Besides this lovely tail growing and those gorgeous scalloped back feathers – I adore Osprey, can you tell? Malin is no longer dragging one of her wing feathers. It just seems it took almost 7 weeks to get these things sorted. Joy. Real joy. What a beautiful Osprey chick?!!!!!!

Patricia Fisher, the local wildlife rehabber just wrote and agreed that Malin’s feathers are looking much better. They still have to cross but fingers crossed on that one. More Joy. Thanks, Patricia for keeping an eye on this little one with all you have to do.

Port Lincoln Osprey Barge, Australia: Mum is busy rolling two eggs and I believe there remain two, awaiting third. Dad and her have been taking turns incubating.

Dad has returned to see if Mom would like a break. He is annoyed by the blue rope material and Mom seems to be annoyed by him pulling it out from under her! What a pair.

Fortis Red Deer: It is embarassing. I have not mentioned our Canadian Ospreys in Alberta for awhile. When I last checked you could only see Legacy’s little head hardly extended above the sticks. Look at this beauty now. Wow. These chicks have grown. This is what I want to say about Malin’s growth at Collins Marsh in a week!

Fortis Exshaw, Canmore, Alberta: It looks like the ospreys were practicing with their ‘ps’ or there was rain and enough blowing wind to throw mud balls up on that lens!

The good thing is that you can hardly tell which are the two chicks and who is the adult. Incredible.

It has been hot but more than that the smoke pollution has made it difficult to breathe at times on the Canadian Prairies. I am keeping an eye on the White Rock fire in British Columbia. You might all know Dr Christian Sasse and his love of Bald Eagles and Osprey. He often streams live generously showing us these beautiful birds. Well, his cottage where he streams them is in the path of the fire. Send warm wishes his way as well as all the wildlife in the region. The White Rock fire is misbehaving badly, not doing normal things so the firefighters are really having a time of it.

Thank you for joining me today. I had hoped to bring you some local hawk pictures. I am heading out hopefully later. Take care everyone.

Thanks to the following for their streaming cams: the Collins Marsh Nature Centre, the Sea Eagle Birdlife Australia, and Discovery Centre, Cumbrian Wildlife and Foulshaw Moss Osprey Nest, Port Lincoln Osprey Project, Fortis Alberta Red Deer, and Fortis Alberta Exshaw. A Special thanks to Patricia Fisher from Wisconsin who cares about Malin and takes time to answer all our questions. I am so grateful.

6 Comments

  1. Linda Kontol says:

    Thank you again for our newsletter Mary Ann! Sorry Tiny Little about the fish! Hope you got one before nighttime! Looking lovely and sweet at the sea eagles nest and port Lincoln too! So glad to see Fortis chick has grown so much with all the fires I have been worried for the 2 nests there. Prayers for the fires 🔥 to go away soon there in Canada.
    Have a good evening and take care! Linda

  2. Linda Kontol says:

    I forgot to mention that I have seen some photos and read some about hen harriers. I’m so glad there is a band on killing them. They are very pretty colors and I think they are unique in their own way. Thanks for the photos and the info on them Mary Ann.

    1. Yes, if it can be enforced. The big estate owners with grouse hunting are up in arms. Do you know Chris Packham. He is supposed to be unbiased on his BBC show (he may be off of it now), He took a bold stand against grouse hunting. They are beautiful birds. Sadly they have found some of the Golden Eagles dead, shot probably on these large estates. Google it. You will be surprised.

  3. Salliane says:

    Thank you for another great newsletter and especially about the hen harriers. It is a specie that I didn’t know existed and so beautiful.
    Sad to see Tiny Little get rooked out of the fish:-( I am sure luck will be with Tiny Little tomorrow! What a beauty TL turned out to be.

    1. White YW is pretty good. The other day he brought 2 fish in quickly. Each of them got one. Tiny Little doesn’t look like she is hungry!! But what a change from a starving third hatch to this grand bird. It gives me hope.

    2. They are really beautiful. I am glad you enjoyed reading about them. Tiny Little – or Big and Bigger Tiny Little doesn’t look like Dad is letting her go hungry. She is really ‘fattening up’ to go on migration. As I told S, it is nice to see such a fabulous turnaround in a little chick everyone thought would die. Like Tiny Tot. These two are survivors for sure.

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