Three rare birds of prey have gone missing in Scotland

The RSPB has launched an appeal following the disappearance of three protected, satellite-tagged hen harriers in Scotland and Cumbria.

These birds are some of the UK’s rarest birds of prey.

The first to have gone missing is a hen harrier named Saorsa who has been monitored since she fledged last June. In February this year, her tag suddenly ceased sending transmissions while she was in the Angus Glens.

A second hen harrier called Blue has also disappeared – the male bird has not been tracked since March 2018. His tag stopped working near Longsleddale, South Lanarkshire.

In the same month, a tagged hen harrier named Finn vanished near Moffat, Scotland. Finn was tagged as a chick in 2016 from a nest in Northumberland. This was one of only three harrier nests to fledge young in the whole of England that year.

RSBP Investigations staff conducted a search for all three birds, but no tags or bodies were found. In previous cases where tagged hen harriers have died of natural causes, tags and bodies have generally been recovered. Cumbria Police and Police Scotland are making local enquiries.

Tim Baynes, director of the Scottish Moorland Group, said: ‘When the satellite tag on any protected bird ceases to work it is a cause for concern.’

Jamie Stewart from Scottish Countryside Alliance also responded to the missing birds of prey. He said: ‘As members of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime in Scotland (PAW) we condemn all wildlife crime and encourage our members to report any relevant information to the police.

‘We also ask that people not jump to conclusions. The RSPB and other bird research organisations have recognised that a small percentage of tags fail, so it is very difficult to draw firm conclusions about what may have happened to these birds.’

Birds are fitted with lightweight satellite tags as part of the EU-funded Hen Harrier LIFE project to help build a better understanding of the birds of prey, their movements and the threats they face. Despite being protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, hen harrier numbers are still declining because of human persecution.

Anyone with information about the missing hen harriers should call the police on 101, or speak to the RSPB investigations in confidence by calling the Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101. The Scottish Countryside Alliance also asks that any hen harrier sightings are reported by phoning 07767671973, or by emailing