Farm Ireland

Saturday 17 February 2018

Harrier populations in decline: BirdWatch Ireland

Hen Harrier SPAs
Hen Harrier SPAs

The hen harrier is one of Ireland's rarest birds of prey but populations have continued to decline, despite the designation.

The current national population is estimated to be between 108 to 157 breeding pairs in 2015, according to the 2015 National Hen Harrier Survey published on BirdWatch Ireland's website in April.

This represents a decline of 8.7pc since the 2010 survey, but BirdWatch Ireland estimates the actual decline could be as high as 16.4pc.

The decline is linked to the availability of their preferred habitat, changes in habitat quality and associated effects of food availability. In 2007, as a requirement under the EU Birds Directive, six sites were designated as Special Protected Areas (SPAs) in Clare, Cork, Galway, Kerry, Laois, Limerick, Monaghan, Offaly and Tipperary (see opposite).

These areas hold 44pc of known pairs in the country.

BirdWatch Ireland says supporting farmers within the SPAs is key to conservation and adequate supports would protect habitats as well as the wider ecosystem.

It anticipates further declines in populations without intervention through appropriate management.

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