Hen Harrier

Circus cyaneus


Hen harriers nest on the ground amongst heather on upland moorlands and winter in the lowlands, particularly around the coast, on heathland and on farmland. They are currently the most endangered breeding bird of prey in England: hen harriers feed on small grouse and fowl (hence their name) which brings them into conflict with gamekeepers and farmers.

How to identify

Hen harriers are slim birds. Males are blue-grey with a white rump, pale underside and black wing tips. Females are brown above, streaky below, with a white rump and a banded tail.

Where to find it

Nests in Scotland and parts of upland Wales, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man. Only a tiny handful of pairs now nest in parts of upland England. Winters in small and decreasing numbers throughout Britain.


When to find it

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

How can people help

Hen harriers are one of our most persecuted birds, shot and poisoned for taking game species. Coupled with widespread damage to their wetland and heathland habitats, they have suffered massive declines. Various initiatives are now in place to help this beautiful bird to survive. The Wildlife Trusts are working closely with farmers and landowners towards a 'Living Landscape': a network of habitats and wildlife corridors across town and country which are good for both wildlife and people. You can support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.

Species information

Common name
Hen Harrier
Latin name
Circus cyaneus
Birds of prey
Length: 48-55cm Wingspan: 1.1m Weight: 350-500g Average Lifespan: 7 years
Conservation status
Classified in the UK as a Red List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review and listed under CITES Appendix II.