As spring approaches, the RSPB is calling on Wigan’s eagled-eyed wildlife fans who enjoy walking in the moorlands 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 - 0845 4600121 - to find 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.
Hen harriers are in trouble largely because of persecution. They sometimes eat red grouse, which makes them unwelcome on moors managed for driven grouse shooting. Some game managers feel they need to illegally kill or disturb harriers to protect their business.