Mysterious Disappearance of Tagged Hen Harrier in Angus Raises Suspicion

Estimated read time 2 min read

RSPB Scotland is investigating the ‘suspicious’ disappearance of a tagged hen harrier – the fourth tagged bird to have disappeared in the area since 2017.

Data from the young female bird, which was fledged at the Mar Lodge Estate in Aberdeenshire, stopped being transmitted on 15 February.

A search of the hen harrier, named Shalimar, took place in her last known location in the Glen Esk area of Angus, but no tag or body was found.

A large area of the Angus Glens is intensively managed for driven grouse shooting and is a notorious raptor persecution hotspot, with multiple confirmed incidents of poisoning, shooting and illegal trapping stretching back over the last 20 years.

There have also been several previous incidents where satellite-tagged birds of prey have been killed or ‘suspiciously disappeared’ in the area. Since 2017, this has included four Hen Harriers, a Golden Eagle and a White-tailed Eagle.

Hen Harriers are one of the UK’s rarest birds of prey and, in terms of its population size, the most heavily persecuted species in the country.

The Mar Lodge Estate, near Braemar, is an important area for breeding Hen Harriers.

Last year 32 Hen Harriers successfully fledged from nests on the estate, of which four were fitted with satellite-tags by RSPB.

The data received from these sat-tags provides information which allows conservationists to study the movements of these birds, including identifying roost sites, foraging areas and any migration patterns, whilst also helping to detect suspected incidents of persecution.

Some 23 Hen Harriers have been tagged at Mar Lodge since 2016, but almost 40% of these satellite-tagged birds have ‘suspiciously disappeared’.

Staff at Mar Lodge are saddened by the apparent loss of Shalimar and the other tagged-harriers that have fledged from the estate.

‘We hope some of the other chicks fledged last year have a more favourable future,’ said Ian Thomson from the RSPB.

‘Despite these losses we will continue our vital conservation work at Mar Lodge and other NTS properties doing what we can to ensure the survival and recovery of hen harriers and other raptor species.’

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