Birds caught on camera
Nature: Hen harrier’ s ‘unusual’ behaviour
A conservation charity has used hidden nest cameras to capture unprecedented images of one of Scotland’s rarest birds of prey engaging in extremely unusual behaviour.
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), working with Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAW), took the first film of a male hen harrier on a Scottish moor playing the role of an attentive father.
On two occasions the Heads Up For Harriers scheme has documented a male bird guarding chicks for up to 35 minutes, while their mother was away from the nest.
Researchers say the behaviour has never been recorded on film before because typically the only time a new hen harrier mother leaves a nest within the first six weeks of laying her eggs is to briefly catch a food drop from her mate.The project today celebrated 30 young hen harriers successfully fledging for the season, on estates across Scotland.
In addition, it has also captured some very unusual predation by two types of owl.
Night vision photography shows an
“We’ve seen a hen harrier nest under attack by two othe raptors”
attentive hen harrier mother scared off from her brood by a fox.
A short-eared owl then inspects the unattended chicks and leaves, shortly before an attack on the nest by a long-eared owl, which eats three of the five newlyhatched baby birds.
Professor Des Thompson, principal scientific adviser for SNH said: “This is exceptional.
“It’s the first time we’ve observed such behaviour by a male hen harrier and the first time we’ve seen a hen harrier nest under attack by two other raptors, one after the other.
“As ground-nesting birds, hen harriers already face extra obstacles in order to protect their chicks. That’s why it’s so important that we crack down on persecution against these vulnerable birds, which already face so many challenges to survive.”
Heads Up For Harriers field worker, Scott Smith, said: “These pictures tell an amazing story that helps us understand the kind of hurdles hen harrier chicks encounter to survive.
“Nests can fail for many reasons. The Heads Up For Harriers project is keen to learn everything we can to help hen harriers flourish in the future.
“The more information gathered about why some hen harrier chicks don’t survive, the more we can find ways to safeguard them.”
WATCH THE BIRDIE: A male hen harrier is seen guarding his chicks while the female is away from the nest