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Rare bird nests on Humber

Last modified: 05 September 2014

Male Montagu's harrier flying

The Humber Montagu's harriers succesfully raised one chick this summer.

Image: Graham Catley

The UK’s rarest breeding bird of prey has successfully nested in East Yorkshire for the first time in decades.

Over the summer, a pair of Montagu’s harriers nested on the Humber Estuary, fledging a single chick. This elegant and agile bird of prey is widespread across Europe but less than ten pairs come to England to breed and these are normally confined to East Anglia and the South West.  This species nests on the ground, often in crops and benefit from the positive attitude of farmers and landowners.

As the birds are so rare, their nests are prime targets for egg collectors. Consequently, the exact location of the Humber nest site has to remain top secret but has thankfully been guarded around the clock by a dedicated team of RSPB staff and volunteers from the local birding community. This work has been partly funded by Natural England and the Humber Nature Partnership.

Pete Short, the RSPB’s Humber Sites Manager, has been co-ordinating the nest watch. He said: “The Humber is an amazing place for wildlife and the presence of a Montagu’s harriers makes it even more special. Watching the nest over the past few months has been hard work with plenty of 4am starts but it has been worth every minute to ensure that this fantastic bird breeds successfully.”

Elsewhere in the UK, the RSPB has been involved in satellite tagging Montagu’s harriers with partners from The Dutch Montagu‘s Harrier Foundation to find out more about their movements and survival.  A website is soon to be launched so the public can follow them online as they migrate to their wintering quarters in Senegal, Africa.

Mark Thomas, RSPB Senior Investigations Officer, said: “Thanks to the efforts of conservationists and farmers, 2014 has been a great year for this spectacular species in England with seven nests producing over 20 youngsters. Three adult birds have been satellite tagged and we are very excited at the prospect of following them over the coming months and years.”

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