HEN harrier nesting sites have reached their highest number in the Yorkshire Dales for decades - but the species remains critically endangered.

Natural England has recorded the best year for hen harrier breeding in England since its recovery project was established in 2002, with 60 chicks fledged from 19 nests across Northumberland, Yorkshire Dales, Cumbria and Lancashire early this summer.

Ian McPherson, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority member champion for natural environment, said: “It’s great to see that more hen harriers have bred this year. Within the Yorkshire Dales National Park itself we know of six nesting attempts, the highest in decades, two of which were brood managed.

“But while it’s good to see the steady improvement - with more nesting attempts each year - there is still a long way to go.".

As Tony Juniper, Chairman of Natural England, observed: “Too many birds still go missing in unexplained circumstances. Hen harriers remain critically endangered in England and there is a long way to go before the population returns to what it should be”.

Four of this year’s satellite-tagged young birds are already missing, ‘fate unknown’.

This includes a female that was tagged in the Yorkshire Dales on June 4, 2020.

Mr McPherson said: “The Yorkshire Dales is an important area for hen harriers outside the breeding season as well, with birds from across the country coming to winter on the moors and fells.

"It’s crucial that these birds not only have safe nesting sites, but also survive the winter, hopefully to breed next year.

"We want to keep these stunning birds in our skies - where they belong - and we’re appealing to the public to help us stamp out raptor persecution once and for all."

All birds of prey are protected by law and killing them is a criminal offence.

If you see any harriers, report them to the Hen Harrier hotline on 0845 460 0121 or by email to henharriers@rspb.org.uk