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Red kite confirmed shot in County Down

Last modified: 03 July 2015

Red kite in flight

Image: Steve Round

RSPB Northern Ireland has said its ‘worst fears have been confirmed’ after tests proved a red kite found dead in County Down was deliberately shot.

The female bird was discovered near Katesbridge on 20 May and it was recovered by the PSNI and the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group.

The death is a real blow to the small population of this magnificent bird of prey in Northern Ireland.

Red kites were persecuted to extinction more than 200 years ago. Back in 2008 RSPB NI joined forces with the Welsh Kite Trust and the Golden Eagle Trust to reintroduce the species to Northern Ireland’s skies.

The current population is thought to stand at around 14 breeding pairs and, although no further releases are planned, the charity is continuing to monitor the population.

It’s thought the population will only reach a sustainable level once around 50 pairs are established.

The bird which was found shot was born in Wales in 2010 and was part of the re-introduction scheme’s final release.

It was also ‘adopted’ by Ballyclare High School in 2011 and given the name Fawkes. Teacher Dr Adrian Witherow said: “We are extremely disappointed about what has happened to Fawkes. Both the staff and pupils at Ballyclare High School were fully behind the red kite re-introduction scheme and it is a real shame that the bird which we have followed for a number of years has been deliberately targeted.”

He added: “RSPB NI has offered us the chance to adopt a chick born this year, which will be doing to show our ongoing support for the project.”

The bird was found near a nest site usually occupied by a male and female known as Black K and Black M. Worryingly, they have not been seen in recent months and their nest, which was freshly lined in preparation for breeding, has not been active for weeks.

Claire Barnett from RSPB NI said: “To lose any of our small red kite population is a real setback but to find out that someone deliberately killed this magnificent bird of prey is beyond belief.

“Since the reintroduction scheme began we done a lot of work to raise awareness about these birds. While they are the largest bird of prey to nest in Northern Ireland, kites are opportunistic scavengers, feeding mostly on worms and small dead animals and aren’t a threat to livestock or people. Sadly, it’s clear that a minority of people still think they don’t have a place in our skies.”

Claire added: “Like all wild birds, red kites are protected by the law and it is an offence to injure or kill one. Red kites are so vulnerable that they are listed as an ‘A1’ species, meaning their nests are protected all year round and crimes against them are eligible for a higher penalty.

“I would appeal for anyone with information about this incident to report it to the police on 101.

“We would also encourage the public to keep an eye out for Black K and Black M. Look for the tags on the underside of the wing and report any sightings to redkiteni@rspb.org.uk

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