THE Forest of Bowland's hen harrier conservation project has come under attack - from a large eagle owl.

The 'non-native' owl remained on the nest for several hours after attacking the female hen harrier sitting on eggs in Forest of Bowland.

Thousands of visitors have been watching project unfold on a big screen at the Bowland Visitor Centre thanks to a hidden camera.

And the CCTV captured the moment the owl struck.

The harrier has not been seen since the incident and experts said the 'nest has now failed'.

Conservationists are concerned that a small population of eagle owls are now driving the native bird of prey out of the Forest of Bowland.

Eagle owls are believed to have established themselves and started breeding in the area after being released from captivity.

Last year, there were just six successful hen harrier nests across the whole of England.

Conservationists are bidding to ensure the bird does not become extinct after years of illegal shooting and poisoning.

Dr Tom Tew, chief scientist for Natural England, said: "Eagle owls - a non-native species - are a recent arrival in Lancashire, following their probable escape from captivity.

"The nest-cam footage confirms suspicions that they are impacting on hen harrier breeding success in Bowland.

"The additional threat posed by eagle owls to an already threatened population of hen harriers raises significant questions about the future survival of this native breeding bird in England."

Dr Mark Avery, RSPB director of conservation, called for a 'decision on what to do about the populations of eagle owls.

He said: "Last year saw just six successful nests in the whole country - four in Bowland.

"It is vital we do not lose them for this last stronghold."


Eagle owls are described as the world's biggest owl.

They can be up to 75cm tall and have a 1.7m wingspan.

After being absent from the wild in the UK for centuries they are undergoing a resurgence.

Some are thought to have arrived from continental Europe, although most are believed to have been released from captivity.

There are 3,000 eagle owls held in captivity in the UK.

They are fierce predators, capable of carrying off cats and dogs.

Eagle owls also prey on larger birds of prey.