BirdWatch Ireland, An Taisce and Environmental Pillar urge public to get behind their “Save the Skydancer” Campaign in light of stark Hen Harrier decline

February 8, 2024
Hen HarrierNews

Without urgent action, we may have just 25 years until the Hen Harrier and its captivating skydance are erased from Ireland’s uplands forever.

This is according to BirdWatch Ireland, An Taisce and the Environmental Pillar, who are urging people across the country to call for a government commitment to the protection of this mesmerising bird of prey before it is too late.

As members of the Irish public, we are witnessing the disappearance of the Hen Harrier before our eyes. Results of the 2022 National Survey of Hen Harrier in Ireland show that time has almost run out for the Hen Harrier, and that the species is now faring even worse than the Curlew and the Corncrake – species often held up as prime examples of biodiversity loss in Ireland. Since the last national survey of what is one of Ireland’s rarest birds, the species has declined by one-third in just seven years, with just 85-106 breeding pairs estimated to remain in the country. Without strong and swift intervention, the Hen Harrier faces the very real prospect of extinction in Ireland in just 25 years, its skydance and chattering call no longer gracing our uplands.

As the Hen Harrier is one of the most heavily researched birds in Ireland, we know what we need to do to save it. We welcome that the draft Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan (HHTRP) appropriately identifies the pressures that have brought about the significant population declines. However, while the ongoing declines should serve as alarm bells, the draft Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan does not reflect the gravity of the current situation.

BirdWatch Ireland, An Taisce and the Environmental Pillar are concerned by the Actions listed in this plan which, due to being vague and not sufficiently targeted will fail to protect the Hen Harrier from the key pressures of forestry and wind energy. The plan fails to outline a clear plan to restore the species habitat, which essentially make it impossible to measure the adequacy of the plan and mean it will not deliver for Hen Harrier.

John Lusby Raptor Conservation Officer with BirdWatch Ireland said: “The draft Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan has been in development for more than ten years, during which time the Hen Harrier population has declined by one-third, we are running out of time, and the draft plan in its current form does not reflect that urgency nor is it sufficiently targeted to implement the actions needed. We need more from the Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan, otherwise we are facing the very real and shameful prospect of losing the Hen Harrier within our lifetimes.” 

Oonagh Duggan Head of Advocacy at BirdWatch Ireland said: “The power to address the pressures and threats to the Hen Harrier lies with several government bodies but instead the message seems to be one of quietly quitting on this majestic bird of prey when you see the lack of ambition in the draft Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan. We need national leadership now and whole-of-government drive and ambition to halt the losses and restore Hen Harrier populations with a strong, effective, clear and measurable Plan. Critical habitat restoration measures would also be a win-win for climate targets as Hen Harriers often nest on peat-based habitats. We call on members of the public to urgently go to the Hen Harrier page on the BirdWatch Ireland website to send a submission to save the Skydancer.” 

Environmental Pillar Steering Committee Member and Head of Advocacy at An Taisce, Dr Elaine McGoff said: “We’re really at a crisis situation in relation to the Hen Harrier which is in grave danger of becoming extinct. A key reason for this collapse is the loss of heather and grassland habitats in our uplands due to forestry, wind energy development and agricultural intensification. We need more than vague, or worse, virtually no commitments from the Government to save the Hen Harrier. We need action that includes protecting breeding and wintering sites and that restores habitats and we’re asking the public to support us.” 

Fintan Kelly, Agriculture and Land Use Policy and Advocacy Officer with the Environmental Pillar, said: “The results of the most recent survey make for grim reading. The current draft Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan to protect the status of the Hen Harrier and its habitats represents a catastrophic and unacceptable failure by the State. We need a much more ambitious approach to saving this iconic bird from extinction. And we need the Irish public to tell the Government that it wants a workable plan to save the skydancer. We are asking the Irish people to send a submission to the National Parks and Wildlife Service outlining our key asks.” 

We know that, to save the Hen Harrier, The Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan must be ambitious and fit-for-purpose.

In order to restore Ireland’s Hen Harrier population, we believe any plan must:

  1. Protect all nationally important Hen Harrier breeding and wintering grounds from afforestation, forest management activities, wind energy development and other pressures.
  2. Restore habitat across all nationally important breeding and wintering sites using clear restoration targets and timelines.
  3. Guarantee long-term support for farmers through well-funded results-based schemes across all nationally important breeding and wintering grounds.

Just one quick click could have a massive impact for the future of the Hen Harrier. The draft Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan is now out for public consultation until 5 p.m. on February 20th, members of the public have a chance to have their say. BirdWatch Ireland, An Taisce and the Environmental Pillar are urging people all across the country to make a submission to the draft Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan public consultation letting the National Parks and Wildlife Service know that the Hen Harrier is important to them and amplifying our calls for the above three key asks.

Submissions can be emailed to or in writing to: Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan Consultation, Agri-Ecology Unit, National Parks and Wildlife Service, 90 North King Street, Smithfield, Dublin D07 N7CV.

This could be our last real opportunity to save this species from extinction.

Visit or to learn more about how you can play a role.

Download joint NGO Public Consultation Response to the Draft HHTRP here: