Hen Harriers in Ireland
The magnificent Hen Harrier is one of Ireland’s rarest native birds of prey. To be lucky enough to see one, as I have on a small number of occasions, is truly a gift.
I remember the first time I saw a Hen Harrier, I was transfixed. It was an adult male, in his blue/grey coat with those extraordinary jet black wing tips. He was virtually floating as he flew so gracefully and slowly around me. I recall commenting to another person that it was “as if he was reading a book as he flew”.
While the male is very distinctive, the female – somewhat bigger – can be confused with a Buzzard, thanks to her mottled brown feathers. Her distinguishing mark is a very white band that runs across her back and can be seen in flight. Note also how the bird has an owl-like ‘disc’ face. Males measure around 50 cm in height and have a wingspan of 120 cm.
When it comes to Hen Harriers in Ireland, the person ‘in charge’ is Barry O’Donoghue of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). Barry can be contacted with any sightings, at 087-9110715. He gave a nice interesting talk about Hen Harriers here in Castlebar early this year.
Also, I came across this lovely heart-warming video about a man’s great interest in the Hen Harrier in Scotland and how he made it his job to look after this iconic and little-known bird. See how he is passing on his love of the bird to his young son. Magic.
Hen Harriers in Ireland
The Hen Harrier is in trouble in Ireland, due to a variety of reasons, one of which is the continuing afforestation of uplands, leading to loss of suitable habitat for breeding. Writing this update in 2017, I haven’t seen one in Mayo for four years. My only recent sighting was a casual one in Leitrim during spring of this year, where I was lucky enough to spot a male over fields while waiting to meet somebody. Another special moment.
Take a look at Birdwatch Ireland’s webpage about this magnificent bird.
Hi Barry, just found your website when Googling for a bird I spotted during the week.
I was driving home on Wednesday from Kilkenny on the M9 motorway and spotted what was a bird of prey swooping down and landing midway up a tree on a branch. I got a pretty good if brief look at the bird as it was directly across the carriageway in clear sight. I have Googled the bird to see if I could identify it, I am pretty confident from the images I have reviewed that I saw a Female Hen Harrier.
Saying that, I have no expertise in this area.
I am making contact in case by chance this sighting is of importance, of course there is the chance that I maybe confusing the bird I saw with another bird of prey, as I mentioned I have no knowledge of bird watching. Also, it’s possible this bird of prey is already known of and its location is familiar to other experts like yourself. Hope this is of some interest, regardless, amazed and stunned to see such a beautiful bird and in what is such an unexpected location.
From recollection this is the location, as it was heading north just after the first bridge after a major junction on the east side of the motorway [redacted by BM].
Thanks for your comment Stephen, which I have replied to by email. I think we both agree this was most likely a Buzzard, a magnificent bird of prey too! Regards, Barry.