As spring approaches, the RSPB is calling on eagled-eyed wildlife fans who enjoy walking on the North York Moors to keep a look out for hen harriers – one of England’s rarest birds of prey.
The nature conservation charity has relaunched its Hen Harrier Hotline in the hope of finding out where these birds might be breeding.
At this time of year, the male hen harrier performs his courtship display known as skydancing, involving a spectacular series of swoops and somersaults.
If he is fortunate enough to attract a female, he then proves his worth as a mate by passing her food offerings in mid-air.
Scientists estimate there is sufficient habitat in England to provide a home to around 300 pairs of breeding hen harriers. But last year there were only three successful nests in the whole country.
Male hen harriers are an ash-grey colour with black wing tips and a wingspan of just less than a metre. They are sometimes known as ghostbirds because of the pale colour of their plumage.
Female hen harriers are slightly larger, are owl-like in appearance, and have a mottled brown plumage, which camouflages them when they nest on the ground. They have horizontal stripes on their tails, giving them the nickname ringtail and a patch of white just above, on the rump.
The Harrier Hotline number is 0845 4600121.