You can help to save rare hen harriers

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HILLWALKERS are being asked to keep an eye out for hen harriers.

The spectacular birds of prey are struggling to breed in some areas, partly due to persecution and disappearing moorland.

In 2010 there were 500 pairs in Scotland, the bulk of the UK population.

They can sometimes be seen in the countryside around Bearsden and Milngavie and along the West Highland Way

The sighting initiative is being launched by the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (Paw) Scotland, which aims to help build up a bank of information to help conserve the species for future generations.

Factors in their decline include the loss of moorland nesting habitat and feeding range, eggs and young being eaten by foxes, crows and other predators, and illegal persecution.

The spotting scheme was launched by environment minister and Paw Scotland chairman Paul Wheelhouse.

He said: “The hen harrier is one of Scotland’s most fascinating birds of prey - with the male’s sky-dancing display one of nature’s great sights.

“Unfortunately these birds are not thriving in some parts of Scotland where we know they would find a suitable habitat and we are determined to take action to conserve them.

“This initiative will raise the profile of the hen harrier to provide us with important information about their activity and location, and I hope people across Scotland will join the efforts to conserve this alluring bird for future generations.”

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) will record the information and details of how to take part are available on the Paw Scotland website.

Ron Macdonald, head of policy at SNH, said: “The public can be of great help by reporting sightings and helping us build a picture of the reasons why these birds aren’t doing as well as we would expect.

“Using sightings from the public, we can assess whether to use some of the new technology at our disposal such as satellite-tagging or camera monitoring, or even where necessary share information with the National Wildlife Crime Unit.

“We do want people to bear in mind though that these birds are specially protected under the law and nobody should approach hen harrier nests or disturb the birds without a licence from SNH.”