We really need to ‘watch the birdie’

A red kite which was found shot dead in Northern Ireland last year. 'Pic by Alan Ferguson/RSPB NI
A red kite which was found shot dead in Northern Ireland last year. 'Pic by Alan Ferguson/RSPB NI

Five bird of prey persecution incidents were confirmed last year in the province - one of them in Tyrone.

Birds of prey continue to be at risk according the latest Birdcrime report which has revealed a minimum of 68 confirmed incidents of detected illegal bird of prey persecution in the UK in 2017.

Birdcrime 2017 – the report summarising offences against birds of prey (also known as raptors) across the United Kingdom – revealed 48 shooting, nine poisoning, three trapping, four nest destructions and four other incidents of illegal persecution against raptors. However, evidence suggests these figures are just the tip of the iceberg with many illegal killings going undetected or unreported. The five confirmed bird of prey persecution incidents in Northern Ireland included three buzzards, two peregrine falcons, a red kite and a sparrowhawk.

Two of the incidents occurred in County Antrim, one in County Derry/Londonderry, one in County Down and one in Tyrone.

Between 2012 and 2017 there 36 persecution incidents in the province, of which four were in County Tyrone.

And it’s not only detection that is a problem. There were just four raptor persecution-related prosecutions in 2017 and only a single conviction (all of these were in Scotland).

Among the victims found across the UK were both rare species such as peregrine falcons, hen harriers and marsh harriers, and short-eared owls as well as more common species such as buzzards, putting the ongoing recovery of some of these species at risk.

While the Birdcrime report focuses on the figures between January and December 2017, there has already been another high-profile raptor persecution incident in Katesbridge in County Down this year, with a breeding pair of red kites – with three eggs in their nest - dying from an illegally held poison in April.

Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: “Birds of prey are part of our heritage and inspire us. We should all be able to enjoy seeing these magnificent birds, however illegal activity continues to put species at risk.

“There are laws in place to protect these birds but they are clearly not being respected or adequately enforced. We need governments across the UK to do more to tackle illegal killing to protect our raptors for us and for future generations to enjoy.”

Roisin Kearney, RSPB NI Conservation Officer, added, “The persecution of birds of prey is a widespread problem in the UK.

“It’s sad that in 2018, which marks the 10th anniversary of red kites being reintroduced to Northern Ireland, we are still seeing red kites and other birds of prey being targeted.

“But for each persecution incident we hear about, scientific studies suggest there are many more that go undetected and unreported. As such, these figures only scratch the surface of the true extent of raptor persecution.”

For the full copy of Birdcrime 2017 report summarising the extent of illegal persecution offences against birds of prey in the UK, visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdcrime