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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Forest to help save rare birds

A forest in Lancashire is helping to prevent a rare species of bird of prey from dying out in England.

Conservationists say the Forest of Bowland is the country's main breeding ground for the hen harrier, which is England's most threatened bird of prey.

According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), 25 chicks fledged from the forest this year.

The birds prey on grouse chicks and are often killed on shooting estates, which has contributed to their demise.

Earlier in the year hen harrier chicks nesting in the forest were fitted with tiny satellite and radio tags as part of a conservation project.

'Highly vulnerable'

Sir Martin Doughty of Natural England said the forest was vitally important in helping to stop the birds, which were protected under English and European law, from becoming extinct.

"If we lose the hen harrier in Bowland, we could lose it in England," he said.

"We must have a much larger and widespread population of this fantastic upland bird.

"Small populations of species can be highly vulnerable to chance events and we cannot literally have all our eggs in one basket."

This year, no harriers bred successfully on large areas of ideal habitat managed on grouse moors in the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors.

Another chance for breeding to take place in the Peak District was scuppered when two female birds disappeared.

Read on
The painting is by Laura Tasheiko

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