Swinton Estate’s Hunters Champion Hen Harrier and Habitat Conservation

December 18, 2023 FACE

Swinton is a shooting estate with 20,000 acres in North Yorkshire, including 8,000 acres of well conservated heather moorland. These moors, internationally recognized as of Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Area of Conservation and Special Protection Area, are managed in benefit of the peatland habitat and the wildlife living there, particularly upland birds. Some of the habitat restoration measures applied are sensitive winter burning and targeted grazing of the heather to provide a mosaic of habitats which supports species like grouse, waders including golden plover, curlew, red shank, and lapwing as well as merlin and other birds of prey.

The Swinton Estate has won the “Life on Land” award from RedList Revival, a charity that recognizes successful conservation efforts for endangered species. The award is given to landholdings that exceed the top 1% in the UK for abundance of a key species. Swinton Estate has won the award for its Hen Harrier population.

Renowned for its conservation work for Hen Harriers, the Swinton Estate had 23 hen harrier chicks fledging successfully since 2013.These efforts also greatly benefit the Curlew and other meadow species such as the Golden Plover, Skylark, and the Meadow Pipit, as well as the Red Grouse. Swinton Estate is in fact in the top10% for these species’ abundance.


When Europe leads policy discussions about Europe’s new Nature Restoration Law, Swinton Estate is an example of how hunting and shooting estates can play a vital role in nature restoration and the conservation of endangered bird species. The estate’s success in restoring moorland and increasing the populations of red-listed birds is a testament to the hard work and dedication of hunters and land managers.

The recovery of red-listed species such as the Hen Harrier, Curlew, and Lapwing is strongly linked to moorland restoration, as all ecosystems rely heavily on the restoration of nature and habitats. Hunters and hunting estates have been working towards this goal for years and will continue to do so, striving for a nature that is rich in wildlife and biodiversity and contributing to the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and nature restoration targets.

Swinton Estate has been a key partner in the government’s Hen Harrier action plan since 2016. This plan aims to recover one of UK’s most endangered bird species. The Estate contributes by identifying and monitoring Hen Harrier winter roosts and nests, protecting them from potential persecution, predation, and possible disturbance by human activities. Furthermore, Swinton’s gamekeeping team provides supplementary food to adult Hen Harriers to boost fledging success, whilst helping saving chicks of other rare species from predation.

Swinton shooting estate has been participating in one of the most important and successful projects to the Hen Harriers’ future. The Brood Management Scheme is a research and conservationist project, started in 2018, aiming to understand the viability and effect of taking eggs from nesting Hen Harriers, rearing them in a specialist facility, and releasing them back to nature to become successful breeding individuals, a technique known as head starting. The trial has seen 34 chicks from 9 broods take to the wing in total.  Five of the brood managed birds have gone on to breed in the wild, adding 17 chicks to the wild Hen Harrier population.

In 2021, 84 Hen Harrier chicks fledged in the north of England, the highest number in the last 35 years. There were 24 successful nests, 19 of them on moors actively managed for red grouse shooting.

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