Golden Eagle Trust logo

Irish Raptor Study Group logo

BirdWatch Ireland logo

Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht logo

Irish Hen Harrier Survey 2015

16th March 2015

As spring approaches, the enigmatic Hen Harrier will begin displaying and looking for a place to nest in the uplands, typically on deep heather moorland and in young forest plantations or scrub habitats.  There is no greater sight than the “sky-dancing” display of the male Hen Harrier advertising himself to females in spectacular undulating flights which rise and fall rapidly hundreds of metres in mid-air.

The Golden Eagle Trust, Irish Raptor Study Group and BirdWatch Ireland have formed an exciting conservation partnership and collectively are co-ordinating the 2015 Irish Hen Harrier Survey on behalf of the National Parks & Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht.

The Hen Harrier is protected by the EU Birds Directive and listed on Annex 1, and as such monitoring, research and protected areas are a vital component for the conservation of the species.  Survey and monitoring data collected during national surveys are vitally important as these data are used by the Government and other agencies to help inform management and conservation decisions.

Female Hen Harrier (Photo: Neil O'Reilly)
Female Hen Harrier
(Photo: Neil O'Reilly)

Several regional declines were recorded during the last survey in 2010 (click here for more details) and it is important that we re-survey to establish the status of the species in Ireland, including within six Special Protected Areas which have been designated to maintain and enhance Hen Harrier populations.  This survey will begin in April 2015, and in the coming weeks the project co-ordinators will be running a series of training workshops to ensure all surveyors are familiar with the methods involved and to offer opportunities for new fieldworkers to participate to help monitor the Hen Harrier population.

Similar to previous years, the survey will examine all suitable Hen Harrier habitats during the breeding season (April to August) and look for evidence of Hen Harriers breeding in or using these areas.  It will be important for observers to record any Hen Harrier behaviour as well as their preferred habitats and any threats or pressures in the nearby areas.

Female Hen Harrier (top) and male Hen Harrier (below) (Illustration: Robert Vaughan)
Female Hen Harrier (top) and male Hen Harrier (below)
(Illustration: Robert Vaughan)

To effectively survey all areas where Hen Harriers occur during the breeding season is a significant undertaking.  The survey relies on the support of a substantial volunteer network, and we hope that interested members of the public will consider volunteering to support this conservation task and to cover a 10km square (or two), and indeed perhaps to form small survey teams to cover a number of squares.  Standardised methods will be available at the workshops and by email.

Members of the public are also invited to attend any (or all) of our upcoming survey training workshops: these will cover Hen Harrier ecology, methods, reporting and other research opportunities during the course of the survey.  These workshops will also allow potential volunteers to meet other fieldworkers and to discuss the methods and survey requirements.  Survey material will be available at the workshops, but we will also forward potential survey allocations, recording forms and detailed survey instructions electronically in due course.  Anyone who wishes to participate in the survey but is unable to attend any of the workshops is also invited to contact us so we can forward all the necessary information to them electronically.

Participation in the workshops is free.  Whilst numbers are not limited, participants are asked to indicate their preferred venue and date and to register in order that we may estimate numbers of participants with the hotels for catering purposes.  Intending participants are asked to please browse through the workshop material and then follow the instructions on the booking form to confirm their preferred venue or correspondence details for electronic communication in relation to the surveys.

Please click for more information on our upcoming survey workshops



Marc Ruddock, Allan Mee & John Lusby


Dr. Marc Ruddock: Tel. +353 (0) 873578590, 

Dr. Allan Mee: Tel: +353 (0) 873117608, 

Mr. John Lusby: Tel. +353 (0) 85 7201892,


Golden Eagle Trust logoThe Golden Eagle Trust Ltd (GET) is a charity registered in Ireland (Charity number: CHY 14770) that specialises in research, monitoring and re-introduction, particularly of raptors.  Founded in 1999, the GET is dedicated to the conservation and restoration of Ireland’s native birds and their habitats, in particular declining, threatened, and extinct species.  The GET manages reintroduction programmes for Golden Eagles, White-tailed Eagles and Red Kites, in partnership with the National Parks and Wildlife Service.  The GET's main aim is to restore, enhance and maintain threatened and extinct native Irish bird species and their habitats through: (i) creative and pro-active conservation management; (ii) practical conservation research; and (iii) imaginative education and public awareness schemes.  The Irish Raptor Study Group and Curlew Trust are shareholders of the Golden Eagle Trust.  For more information on research and work undertaken by The Golden Eagle Trust Ltd., please visit

Irish Raptor Study Group logoThe Irish Raptor Study Group (IRSG) is a voluntary organisation, formed in 1994, that specialises in the deployment of volunteer fieldworkers with highly specialised skills in the identification and survey of raptors (birds of prey).  The IRSG's main aims are to: (i) promote the conservation and protection of all wild breeding and migratory raptor species and their habitats in Ireland; (ii) encourage research and monitoring of all raptor species and the publication of such work where appropriate; (iii) assist group members with the above and co-ordinate members’ summary results; (iv) circulate the results to outside individuals and bodies, to enhance the conservation of raptors, but only with the prior consent of the individual who collected the initial data; (v) assist members with any licensing requirements etc.; (vi) set up and maintain a confidential nest recording scheme; and (vii) co-operate as necessary with outside individuals, other NGOs and especially the statutory body in Ireland, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, in the furtherance of the above objectives.  This specialist NGO represents a membership of approximately 80 volunteers and professional raptor workers and forms an efficient mechanism, due to their dispersed membership, for the implementation of regional, local and national raptor surveys.  The IRSG have been involved in all national surveys to date (including Peregrine and Hen Harrier) and are actively pursuing a scheme to effectively monitor raptor populations in Ireland.

BirdWatch Ireland logoBirdWatch Ireland is the largest environmental charity in Ireland.  Established in 1968, it is a non-governmental organisation with over 15,000 members nationwide, and it works to create a healthy natural environment both for wildlife and for people through the protection of wild birds and the wide range of flora and fauna upon which their survival depends.  Through its membership, its network of nature reserves, its 30 local branches nationwide, its education programmes, its research, survey and monitoring work and its continual lobbying of decision-makers, it delivers improved engagement with nature and fights for the protection of Ireland’s rich natural assets, on which we all depend.  It is the Irish partner of BirdLife International, the global partnership of bird conservation organisations.  BirdWatch Ireland is focussed on the conservation of birds and biodiversity in Ireland.  It aims to target its resources effectively so that it can promote nature conservation among policy-makers and the wider public. Its principal objectives include: (i) species & habitat conservation; (ii) research and monitoring; (iii) promoting birds and biodiversity among the wider public; (iv) reserve management and (v) policy & advocacy.  For more information on BirdWatch Ireland’s work, please visit

Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht logoThe National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is part of the Heritage Division of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.  The National Parks and Wildlife Service has key roles to (i) secure the conservation of a representative range of ecosystems and maintain and enhance populations of flora and fauna in Ireland, (ii) to designate and advise on the protection of Natural Heritage Areas (NHA) having particular regard to the need to consult with interested parties, (iii) to make the necessary arrangements for the implementation of National and EU legislation and policies including the EU Habitats and Birds Directives and for the ratification and implementation of the range of international Conventions and Agreements relating to the natural heritage, and (iv) to manage, maintain and develop State-owned National Parks and Nature Reserves.  For more information on the work, structure and contact details visit





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