PUPILS from a rural Ribble Valley school have taken five rare hen harrier chicks under their wing.

The schoolchildren from Brennard’s Endowed Primary School in Slaidburn have adopted and named the birds, which are currently being raised in a nest on the United Utilities Bowland Estate.

They are the first hen harrier chicks to hatch in England since 2012 and come from one of only three nests in the country.

Another one of these is also on the Bowland Estate.

The female chicks have been named Sky, Heather, Highlander and Fern, and the only male, Flash.

Five of the children at the Church Street school were then treated to a visit to the United Utilities Estate, where a team of RSPB staff and volunteers are protecting the nest 24 hours a day.

Year five pupil Matthew Anderton said: “I felt really excited and happy because they are a really rare bird. There isn’t many of them in the UK.

“It is a privilege to go and see them.”

Siobhan McGuigan, the RSPB’s youth development officer for Northern England, said: “The children at Brennard’s seem very proud of their role as hen harrier chick adopters and recognise how rare and special these birds are.

“The birds have been fitted with satellite tags so the children will be able to follow their progress as they leave Bowland next month, looking for places around the UK to feed and roost during the winter months.”

The RSPB’s hen harrier work in Bowland forms part of Skydancer, a four-year RSPB project aimed at protecting and conserving the nesting birds of prey in the English uplands.

The project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, with a grant of £317,700, and United Utilities, with additional support from the Forestry Commission.

For more information about the project, visit www.rspb.org.uk/skydancer.