Hen harrier Circus cyaneus, female in flight against blue sky, Geltsdale, Cumbria

Birds of prey in the UK: On a wing and a prayer

Birds of prey are among our most spectacular and well known birds, but remain a controversial subject for some.

Birds of prey in the UK: On a Wing and a Prayer is a report produced by 26 organisations, which attempts to address some of these controversies, relying on fact rather than anecdote.

The report

The report describes the status of our birds of prey, provides a brief history of their conservation, and, with an eye to the future, explains why we must do more to protect these birds.  

Many birds of prey have recovered spectacularly from historical human interference and the debilitating effects of organochlorine pesticide poisoning, representing a conservation and cultural success story. However, much still needs to be done to secure the future for species including the golden eagle and hen harrier, the populations of which continue to be limited by illegal killing.

It is therefore essential that birds of prey continue to receive full legal protection and that our wildlife laws are properly enforced, bringing an end to the illegal killing. 

The 26 organisations that have endorsed this report represent a diverse set of backgrounds, interests and experience, and collectively reflect the interests of more than 7 million people - a powerful voice demanding strong protection for some of our most iconic species. This demonstrates how highly regarded birds of prey are. Their fate is a concern for anyone who cares about our countryside.

From this page you can access the main report, summaries of the main messages contained within it and a series of factual briefing sheets which go into more detail on specific issues often associated with birds of prey.

Why should we protect birds of prey?

Red kite Milvus milvus, swooping in to feed on ground, Oxfordshire
Explore just a few of the many reasons we should protect birds of prey.

Future challenges

Guy Anderson - RSPB Principle research manager, satellite tagging juvenile Hen harrier, Geltsdale, Cumbria

Despite the improvements and successes, humans still pose a threat to birds of prey.

Become a Bird of Prey Defender

You can help the RSPB’s Investigations Team fight for the future of birds like hen harriers by becoming a Bird of Prey Defender for just £3 a month, or through a one-off donation.