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Hen Harrier

Irish: Clamhán na gcearc, Cromán na gcearc nó Préachán na gcearc
Latin: Circus cyaneus

Recognized as a harrier by long wings and tail and low flight with wings raised in shallow 'V' when gliding. Adult male has grey-blue upperparts and white rump and obvious contrasting black wing-tips, blue-grey head and whitish underparts. The female also has a white rump, but is mostly brown with yellowish inner wing and dark brown streaks on upper and under wing and tail.

Hen Harriers prefer upland areas, especially heath habitats but also marginal agricultural land and young forestry plantations. During the winter they can be found on saltmarshes, reed beds and over lake margins.

Mostly birds such as Starlings, young waders and gulls, Red Grouse, Meadow Pipits and other passerines and also mice and rats.

Nests on the ground in rank vegetation including heather and sedges or young conifer plantations. They have started to nest in the crowns of storm damaged plantation conifers in Northern Ireland in the last decade (Don Scott). The loose nest is compiled of dead heather stems, bracken and other plant material. 4-6 eggs are laid in April -late May and incubation lasts 29-32 days. The chicks begin to seek cover in the neighbouring vegetation as they get older and eventually fledge at 29-32 days. Occasionally a male can be polygamous ie mate with and provision two females.

A national Hen Harrier survey by Dúchas, the Irish Raptor Study Group and Birdwatch Ireland found a minimum of 73 breeding pairs and up to 90 possible breeding pairs in the Republic of Ireland in 1998-1999. Northern Ireland holds 38 pairs.