Male Hen Harrier

Bird Watching in the Forest of Bowland


The Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is a special place for upland birds thanks to its diversity of habitats and landscapes.

Birds such as Hen Harriers, England’s most threatened bird of prey, Ring Ouzels and Whinchats, as well as many other species, can all be found in the beautiful hills and valleys of the fells.

Birds of Prey

Bowland is the English stronghold of the hen harrier, with typically 12 pairs breeding each year. This can be up to 90 per cent of the current English breeding population. The bird is of such significance in Bowland that it has been adopted as the logo of the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Hen harriers need large open expanses of heather and grass moorland for breeding so Bowland is ideal habitat for these birds. As well as hen harriers, the Forest of Bowland also supports peregrines, merlins and short-eared owls. In common with many other areas, the population of peregrines has increased slowly on the United Utilities Estate. In the past, only three or four pairs bred annually, but the numbers have now increased to seven or eight pairs each year.

Breeding merlin populations can be very localised and varied in their nesting success. Bowland is a 'hot spot' for this species with an average of just over seven nesting attempts recorded on the United Utilities estate over the last 17 years.

Short-eared owls do well on the remote moorland and rough grassland areas, their populations varying in number every three or four years in tandem with fluctuations in small rodents, their main prey.


The sparsely wooded gullies are classic habitat for the scarce ring ouzel, also known as the mountain blackbird. The United Utilities Estate is the most important site in Lancashire for this attractive thrush but ring ouzels are giving conservationists serious concerns due to dramatic national declines in the breeding population.
For further details on all the birds found in the Forest of Bowland visit The RSPB web site.

Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015