Forest management and Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus conservation in Ireland

Anthony Caravaggi, Sandra Irwin, John Lusby, Alan McCarthy, Allan Mee, Tony Nagle, John O'Halloran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hen Harriers Circus cyaneus are birds of prey that are of conservation concern in Ireland where the population is small and in decline. Hen Harriers typically use upland habitats such as heather moorland and bog during the summer breeding season but will also use pre-thicket coniferous forest. Extensive afforestation of upland habitats has contributed to a decline in suitable nesting and foraging habitat for breeding Hen Harriers across their range. We used data from The 2015 National Survey of Breeding Hen Harrier in Ireland, forest data sources and CORINE land class maps to explore the abundance of five broad habitat categories in areas around Hen Harrier territories. The results demonstrate a concerning lack of heath and bog habitat at landscape-scale surrounding typical Hen Harrier breeding territories in Ireland. The high proportion of habitat of poor suitability in the landscape may reduce the reproductive potential of breeding Hen Harrier pairs, ultimately impacting at the population level. We discuss these habitat mosaics in the context of forest management options that are relevant to Hen Harrier conservation. Hen Harriers are vulnerable to commercial forestry and we outline key forest management options and land-use considerations to enhance habitat suitability for breeding Hen Harriers. We provide recommendations for future study, policy and management practice aimed at protecting Hen Harriers and their habitats.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalIrish Birds
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • conservation
  • ornithology
  • habitat
  • uplands
  • bird of prey


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