The red kite population in Scotland is under severe threat from illegal poisoning a new RSPB study has revealed.
An equal number of red kites were released in the Chiltern Hills in southern England and in The Black Isle near Inverness as part of a reintroduction project which began in 1989
The birds in the Chiltern Hills have flourished and numbers of breeding pairs had reached 320 pairs by 2006. In stark contrast the Black Isle birds have struggled to establish a viable breeding population and had only reached 46 pairs over the same period. Both populations of red kites have been closely monitored and productivity from successful nests in both studies were found to be similar and amongst the highest in Europe.
Red kites are mainly scavengers and their diet of carrion makes them extremely vulnerable to illegal poisoning. Although they pose absolutely no threat to game shooting interests they are all too often killed by gamekeepers illegally targeting other species.
Between 1989 and 2009, 64 red kites have been found poisoned in Scotland. Naturally considering the remote locations where these birds live, only a small proportion of poisoned birds will ever have been found.
Scottish Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham said,
“Poisoning is an arbitrary method of killing which poses serious risks to other wildlife, and potentially people, in our countryside.
“The protection of Scotland’s wildlife has never before occupied such a prominent position politically or in terms of the law. I hope that our continued joint action to tackle raptor persecution across Scotland will reduce this threat to red kites.”
With sentences such as we have recently seen in the Redmyre Estate case, where gamekeeper Graham Barclay Kerr was fined a derisory £400 for shooting a buzzard with a high velocity rifle and admonished for possession of illegal and deadly poisons I don’t think Roseanna’s words will have the perpetrators of these crimes quaking in their plus fours.