Hen Harrier SPA habitat map viewer launched

The Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus is protected in Ireland under the Wildlife Act (1976) and Amendment Act (2000). With its breeding population having declined by more than 50% in the past 30 years the Hen Harrier is listed as an Annex I species under the EU Birds Directive (1979) and accordingly has a high conservation status. Annex I refers to a list of species that require strict protection due to their populations declining seriously throughout their respective ranges. The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) have recently launched the Hen Harrier SPA Habitat Map Viewer. This has been produced as part of the Hen Harrier Mapping Project. The online map viewer is available here.

Under Article 4 of the Birds Directive (Directive 2009/ 147/EC) six Special Protection Areas (SPAs), covering a total land area of c.1,671km², has been classified for the conservation of the Hen Harrier in Ireland. Ireland’s six SPA’s designated for Hen Harrier are Slieve Bloom Mountains SPAStacks to Mullaghareirk Mountains, West Limerick Hills and Mount Eagle SPAMullaghanish to Musheramore Mountains SPASlievefelim to Silvermine Mountains SPASlieve Beagh SPA and Slieve Aughty Mountains SPA. The most recent national survey on hen harriers recorded 128 to 172 breeding pairs across the country, giving an estimated total of 344 adult birds.

Male hen harrier, Co Kerry.

Male hen harrier, Co Kerry.

In 2014, the Hen Harrier Mapping Project focused on Special Protection Areas (SPAs) designated for the Hen Harrier using remote sensing techniques. The project involved producing a contemporary digitised habitat map for each of the six SPAs designated for Hen Harrier in the country. Habitat categories were broadly based on the habitat classification system developed by Fossitt (2000) that distinguishes habitats of ecological relevance to Hen Harrier. Mapping resolution corresponds to Ordnance Survey Ireland base-maps whereby land use within discreet enclosed land parcels can be readily identifiable. Digital Globe Satellite Imagery 2013 was utilised for aerial interpretation of habitats. Several existing geospatially referenced datasets (National forest inventory datasets, National Parks & Wildlife Service habitat datasets) provided habitat data coverage equivalent to c.55% of the SPA land area. A digital geodatabase created within ArcGIS integrated, categorised and quantified a total, c.1,691km² of habitat within and overlapping the SPA boundaries.

This mapping output covers an extensive area of high resolution and clearly will be an important tool for spatial planning in SPAs, including Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and assessments required under Article 6 of the EU Habitats Directive.

For further information please also see:-

ECOFACT ornithologists are experts in providing both surveys and impact assessments in relation to Hen Harriers. Please contact us to discuss any bird survey or ornithological impact assessment requirements.