There is a need for urgent and specific intervention for the hen harrier in Ireland, if the bird is to survive in the future, according to the 2022 national report of breeding hen harrier.
The survey found that the bird’s population has declined by one third since the previous national survey in 2015.
The hen harrier population in Ireland was estimated at 84 confirmed, and 21 possible breeding pairs (85-106) in 2022.
The report recommends that regular national surveys take place every five years and that the conservation status of the hen harrier must be continually assessed.
“The protections for hen harrier currently in place need to be reviewed and expanded upon,” it added.
A review of the afforestation protocols, the survey methods and guidance used to inform such protocols and other forest management activities is also warranted, it stated.
The agricultural sector has significant capacity to implement landscape-scale changes that can be optimised for the hen harrier, according to the report.
“The removal of any remaining conflicts within funding systems (eg, scrub and heather eligibility) and their effective communication to agri-advisers and participants to prevent on-going loss and disturbance of breeding hen harrier and their habitats is recommended.
“Long-term support for local communities and locally adapted agricultural programmes is needed; farmers and land managers should be centrally positioned within these; and sufficient supports by way of knowledge sharing (in both directions) and monetary inputs should be provided via the community sector through local engagement mechanisms, to minimise negative perceptions of hen harrier conservation and reduce the negative sentiments towards the species across all sectors,” it added.
It recommends that the 2015 published habitat mapping for the Special Protected Areas (SPAs) needs to be updated, and it is recommended that it be expanded to include the non-designated, regionally important areas.
A public consultation is open on the draft hen harrier threat response plan.
The plan identifies actions to address and reverse the key threats and pressures on the bird.
The Minister for Heritage Malcolm Noonan is seeking the public’s views on the place by 14 February.