scotland’s red kites under threat from illegal killing


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.

Full story.

3 thoughts on “scotland’s red kites under threat from illegal killing”

  1. Quote:
    “The red kite population in Scotland is under severe threat from illegal poisoning a new RSPB study has revealed.”

    Strange that they’ve only just discovered that, members of the Scottish Raptor Study Groups have known for years and we didn’t have to do a study !!!


  2. Absolutely shocking…nearly 50 kites killed in Scotland. I remember investigating the first one – poisoned by alphachloralose on the Black Isle, within months of the first release of only 6 birds in 1989. A search of the same estate keeper revealed a stash of alpha in one of his sheds – no prosecution as the law then didnt make possession illegal [what else did he have pure alpha for!?].

    Massive publicity for that one…and for many others since…the reaction?…”how dare you tarnish us all because of a few rotten apples!”….

    The shooting industry in Scotland is riddled with this kind of criminality…its hard to find the clean apples in the barrel…and yet our politicians continue to deal with them!

    When will this change??…Perhaps a complaint from one of our neighbouring european countries parliament…or the EC?..or from the Westminster Parliament to our Scottish one would waken some of our politicians?

  3. Dave
    The number illegally killed is far higher than the 50 birds you mentioned. The recent analysis by Dr J.Smart and others and to be published this year in Biological Conservation states that an estimated 21 red kites are being killed each year and that between 1999 and 2006, the period when the population increase halted, an estimated 166 red kites were illegally killed. The scale of this killing by grouse-moor keepers in 2010 continues unabated, and nothing, nothing save the banning of driven grouse-shooting will reduce the problem. Raptors are up against a blood sport where killing both legal and illegal is carried out on an industrial scale, and to which the law is totally ineffective in policing.


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