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Birdcrime report reveals bird of prey killing continues in NI

Last modified: 26 November 2015

Buzzard landing on ground

Image: Steve Round

A total of 15 magnificent birds of prey were persecuted in Northern Ireland last year, a new report has revealed.

The RSPB's annual Birdcrime report is the only centralised source of incident data for wild bird crime in the UK. Across the UK last year the charity received 179 reports of shooting and destruction of birds of prey and 72 incidents of wildlife poisoning and pesticide-related offences.

Almost half of the cases reported in Northern Ireland relate to poisoning, with three buzzards, three red kites and a peregrine falcon all falling victim. Due to these birds’ scavenging behaviour, they are vulnerable to the indiscriminate use of illegal poison in the countryside.

One of the buzzards, which was recovered in County Armagh in October 2014, had traces of three different poisons in its body – aldicarb, carbofuran and isofenphos.

The figures contained in Birdcrime are believed to represent only a fraction of illegal persecution across the UK, with many incidents thought to be going undetected and unreported.

However, of the 15 cases reported in Northern Ireland, the highest number of incidents involving birds of prey were recorded in County Down.

The charity has said this trend is ‘very concerning’, as County Down is where its red kite re-introduction scheme is located.

RSPB NI co-ordinated the re-introduction of the species to Northern Ireland between 2008 and 2010 and continues to monitor their progress.

However, the project has faced real challenges over the past seven years due to persecution.

The current population of red kites stands at 12 territorial pairs but in order for the population to be considered sustainable, this needs to increase to around 50 pairs.

The project suffered a real blow in June 2014 when a member of the public contacted RSPB NI with concerns about a possible poisoning incident.

Examination of a nest in the Katesbridge area sadly revealed a dead female and two dead chicks.

Michelle Hill, Senor Conservation Officer at RSPB NI said: “The public perception of birds of prey is often divided – from those who love to see these awe-inspiring creatures soaring high in our skies, to those who mistakenly think they pose a danger to humans and livestock.

 “The problem of illegal persecution is a constant battle and will only be won through raising awareness and concerted efforts to identify and penalise the minority of people who threaten these birds’ very existence.”

She added: “We would appeal to the public to report any suspected incidents of wildlife crime to their local police station on 101 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

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