Press Release: Irish National Hen Harrier Survey commences Spring 2022!

As the breeding season approaches the enigmatic hen harrier will begin displaying and looking for a place to nest in the uplands, typically on deep heather moorland and in young forest plantations or scrub habitats. There is no greater sight than the “sky-dancing” display of the white-grey and black-wing-tipped male hen harrier showing off to the brown, more camouflaged, white-rumped females in spectacular undulating flights which rise and fall rapidly 100’s of meters in mid-air.

In 2022, the Irish Raptor Study Group, BirdWatch Ireland and the Golden Eagle Trust, continue their conservation partnership to collectively co-ordinate the 2022 Irish Hen Harrier Survey on behalf of the National Parks & Wildlife Service of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. The Hen Harrier Project are also playing an important role in this national survey and contributing information on hen harrier collected in the Special Protected Area network to allow the national population size and trends to be assessed.

The hen harrier is protected by the EU Birds Directive and listed on Annex 1 and as such monitoring, research and protected areas are a vital component for the conservation of the species. In addition, survey and monitoring data collected during national surveys are vitally important as these data are used by the government and other agencies to help inform management and conservation decisions.

The most recent national survey was carried out in 2015, which recorded declines in Hen Harrier populations since the previous survey in 2010 as well as some worrying regional declines and it is important that we repeat the survey to assess the status of the species in Ireland. This new survey will begin in late March 2022 and in the coming weeks the project co-ordinators will be running a series of training workshops to help standardise methodologies and offer opportunities for new fieldworkers to get involved in helping to monitor the hen harrier population.

Similar to previous years the survey will examine all suitable hen harrier habitats during the breeding season (March to August) and look for evidence of hen harriers breeding or using these areas. You can assist with the survey in many ways, such as helping to cover a survey square or registering sightings on hen harrier, this will help us to improve our understanding of hen harrier populations including their recent trends and their conservation requirements.


Mr Ryan Wilson-Parr                                      Mr John Lusby                                  Dr Marc Ruddock              

Irish Raptor Study Group                               Birdwatch Ireland                             Golden Eagle Trust

Tel: +353 (0) 871510849                                Tel. +353 (0) 857201892                 Tel. +353 (0) 87357890                                                                                 

Editors Notes:

The hen harrier is a raptor species of conservation concern in Ireland and protected under The Wildlife Act 1976 & Amendment Act 2000. Hen harriers are listed on Annex 1 of the Birds Directive (2009/147/EEC) and are currently considered an All‐Ireland Species of Conservation Concern. The last national survey in 2015 estimated 108 – 157 breeding pairs of hen harrier in Ireland.

The EU Birds Directive provides a legislative framework of measures required for assessing and ensuring the conservation of the hen harrier which includes monitoring, research and the designation of Special Protection Areas (SPAs). Six sites have been designated as SPAs for breeding hen harriers in Ireland (see; the Slieve Bloom Mountains SPA, the Stackʹs to Mullaghareirk Mountains SPA, West Limerick Hills and Mount Eagle SPA, the Mullaghanish to Musheramore Mountains SPA, the Slievefelim to Silvermines Mountains SPA, Slieve Beagh SPA and the Slieve Aughty Mountains SPA.

Several regional declines were recorded during the last survey in 2010 and 2015 and it is important that we re-survey to establish the status of the species in Ireland. You can find out more about the results of the previous survey at the following links:

2010 Survey:

2015 Survey:

For more information visit project website and data entry portal.

The Irish Raptor Study Group (IRSG) is a voluntary organisation, formed in 1994, that specialises in the deployment of volunteer fieldworkers with highly specialised skills in the identification and survey of raptors (birds of prey). The IRSG main aims are to: (i) promote the conservation and protection of all wild breeding and migratory raptor species and their habitats in Ireland; (ii) encourage research and monitoring of all raptor species and the publication of such work where appropriate; iii) assist group members with the above and co-ordinate members’ summary results; (iv) circulate the results to outside individuals and bodies, to enhance the conservation of raptors, but only with the prior consent of the individual who collected the initial data; (v) assist members with any licensing requirements etc.; (vi) set up and maintain a confidential nest recording scheme; and (vii) co-operate as necessary with outside individuals, other NGOs and especially the statutory body in Ireland, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, in the furtherance of the above objectives. This specialist NGO represents a membership of approximately 80 volunteers and professional raptor workers and forms an efficient mechanism, due to their dispersed membership, for the implementation of regional, local and national raptor surveys. The IRSG have been involved in all national surveys to date (including peregrine and hen harrier) and are actively pursuing a scheme to effectively monitor raptor populations in Ireland. For more information on IRSG visit

BirdWatch Ireland (BWI) is the largest environmental charity in Ireland. Established in 1968, we are a non-governmental organisation with over 15,000 members nationwide, and we work to create a healthy natural environment both for wildlife and for people through the protection of wild birds and the wide range of flora and fauna upon which their survival depends. Through our membership, our network of nature reserves, our 30 local branches nationwide, our education programmes, our research, survey and monitoring work and our continual lobbying of decision-makers, we deliver improved engagement with nature and fight for the protection of Ireland’s rich natural assets, on which we all depend. We are the Irish partner in BirdLife International, the global partnership of bird conservation organisations. BirdWatch Ireland is focussed on the conservation of birds and biodiversity in Ireland. We aim to target our resources effectively so that we can promote nature conservation among policy-makers and the wider public. Our principal objectives include: i) species & habitat conservation; 2) research and monitoring; 3) promoting birds and biodiversity among the wider public; 4) reserve management and 5) policy & advocacy. For more information on BirdWatch Ireland’s work visit

The Golden Eagle Trust Ltd (GET) is a charity registered in Ireland (Charity number: CHY 14770) that specialises in research, monitoring and re-introduction, particularly of raptors. Founded in 1999, the GET is dedicated to the conservation and restoration of Ireland’s native birds and their habitats, in particular declining, threatened, and extinct species. The GET manages reintroduction programmes for golden eagles, white-tailed eagles and red kites, in partnership with the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The GETs main aim is to restore, enhance and maintain threatened and extinct native Irish bird species and their habitats through; (i) creative and pro-active conservation management; (ii) practical conservation research; and (iii) imaginative education and public awareness schemes. The Irish Raptor Study Group and Curlew Trust are shareholders of the Golden Eagle Trust. For more information on research and work undertaken by The Golden Eagle Trust Ltd visit

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is part of Department of of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has key roles to i) secure the conservation of a representative range of ecosystems and maintain and enhance populations of flora and fauna in Ireland ii) to designate and advise on the protection of Natural Heritage Areas (NHA) having particular regard to the need to consult with interested parties and iii) to make the necessary arrangements for the implementation of National and EU legislation and policies including the EU Habitats and Birds Directives and for the ratification and implementation of the range of international Conventions and Agreements relating to the natural heritage. To manage, maintain and develop State-owned National Parks and Nature Reserves. For more information on the work of the NPWS and contact details visit                             

The Hen Harrier Project Ltd is the lead partner in a consortium contracted to by Dept. of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to administer the Hen Harrier Programme, piloting practical results based approach to farming in Special Protection Areas designated for the protection of breeding Hen Harrier. The Hen Harrier Project is a locally targeted conservation programme building strong partnerships with farmers to deliver sustainable benefits for biodiversity, upland ecosystems and a vibrant local rural economy.   For more information on the work, structure and contact details visit