Capsule: Hen Harriers Circus cyaneus on the Isle of Mull, UK, are associated with habitat mosaics consisting of moorland, scrub and forestry but avoid grazed land, suggesting that forested habitats could be managed sympathetically for the Hen Harrier in the future should the current UK population increase.
Aims: To use distribution modelling to investigate nesting habitat associations using a long-term data set for the Hen Harrier on Mull.
Methods: We develop area-interaction models using a least absolute shrinkage and selection operator penalty to explore the distribution of 102 Hen Harrier nest sites in relation to habitat and topography. Our model is then successfully validated in tests using data for 70 nest sites from subsequent years.
Results: Our model is effective in predicting suitable areas for Hen Harrier nest sites and indicates that Hen Harriers on Mull are found in habitat mosaics below 200 m above sea level. Hen Harrier nest intensity is positively associated with increasing proportions of moorland and scrub, open canopy forestry and closed canopy forestry. Nest intensity is negatively associated with increasing proportions of grazed land.
Conclusion: Hen Harriers avoid grazed areas but are relatively tolerant of other habitat combinations. These findings are supported by previous observations of Hen Harrier habitat use and have implications for the recovery of some Hen Harrier populations in Special Protection Areas and future forest management. Open canopy forest and forest mosaics could potentially be incorporated into landscape-scale conservation plans for Hen Harriers using the population on Mull as an example.
Citation: Geary, M., Haworth, P.H. & Fielding, A.H., 2018. Hen harrier Circus cyaneus nest sites on the Isle of Mull are associated with habitat mosaics and constrained by topography, Bird Study, DOI: 10.1080/00063657.2017.1421611