University of Central Lancashire invites public to name hen harrier chick

Posted on - 10th August, 2016 - 12:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Preston News, UCLan, University campus, Wildlife and Conservation

hen harrier tagged - Steve Downing


In celebration of National Hen Harrier Day on Saturday 6 August, UCLan is asking public to name the latest fledgling of the UK’s most threatened bird of prey.

The #nametheharrier campaign, running until 13 August, has been launched to celebrate a four year research project that aims to aid the protection of the threatened hen harrior, supported by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

The public have been asked to name a female hen harrier chick which hatched on the Isle of Mull, Scotland, from a shortlist of three names including Heather, Hebrides and Hermione.

The research project, led by geneticist Dr Arati Lyengar, involves creating a DNA based individualisation kit that can be used to sex and identify individual hen harriers with high accuracy, and has the potential to assist bringing about prosecution of people who illegally kill these birds.


Dr Arati Iyengar said: “The DNA kit will allow us to use evidence recovered from a person suspected to have killed a hen harrier, for example blood or feathers from a vehicle, and match the DNA profile generated to a sample recovered from a nest site.

“The kit is very powerful. The probability that DNA profiles from two randomly selected individuals will match is on average about one in 27 million.”

Hen harriers are best known for their spectacular sky-dancing courtship display, and despite making a natural recovery from their extinction on mainland Britain in 1900, they face an uncertain future again as their tendency to eat red grouse brings them into conflict with the driven grouse shooting industry.

Hen harrier Circus cyaneus, adult female perched on heather, Loch Gruinart RSPB reserve, Islay, June 2002

Hen harrier Circus cyaneus, adult female perched on heather, Loch Gruinart RSPB reserve, Islay, June 2002

The young female chick to be name is one of several hen harriers fitted with stellite tags this year as part if RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE Project, a part-European funded cross- border programme of conservation that aims to raise awareness and secure a future for these birs across northern DEngland and Scotland.

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Blánaid Denman, Project Manager for RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE Project said: “The work of Dr Iyengar and her colleagues at UCLan is a huge step forward in the fight against wildlife crime and the protection of hen harriers. In being able to genetically identify individual birds, it also has the potential to teach us more about the population dynamics of this species.

From the end of the summer, bird lovers will be able to follow the birds’ movements online and on Twitter.

Anyone interested in taking part can vote for their favourite name via an online survey, which is also available on Facebook and Twitter via the #nametheharrier hashtag.

The results will be announced on 15 August.

What name would you give the female hen harrier? Let us know in the comments below

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