Red kite found shot dead on land managed for pheasant shooting in Wales

Three red kites have been found dead on land managed for pheasant shooting in Wales.

On Sunday (19 April 2020) two corpses were found by a member of the public and photographed but then ‘disappeared’ before they could be collected. A third corpse was found by TV presenter Iolo Williams and an x-ray confirmed it had been shot.

[The shot red kite found by Iolo Williams]

The RSPB and Dyfed-Powys Police have today issued the following appeal for information:


Police and the RSPB are appealing for information regarding the shooting of one red kite, and the suspected shooting of two more in Wales.

A protected red kite was found shot dead in Tregynon, near Newtown, Powys on Sunday 19 April 2020. At least two more are suspected to have been illegally killed in the area, which is managed for pheasant shooting.

A local woman found the two dead red kites while out walking with her family on 19 April. She photographed the birds and planned to return the next day.

She posted her photographs on social media, where they came to the attention of wildlife presenter Iolo Williams. The former RSPB employee ventured out that same evening to the location the birds had been seen, but when he arrived the bodies had disappeared. However, he discovered a third bird lying dead on the ground. The body was x-rayed and found to contain three pieces of shot in its chest and each of its wings.

Police officers conducted a patrol of the area but uncovered no leads. They are now appealing to the public for information.

All birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To intentionally kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail.

Julian Hughes, head of species at RSPB Cymru, said: “Red kites have made a comeback in Wales after a collaborative effort by farmers, conservationists and communities. For most of us, the sight of these glorious birds – recognisable by their long wings and forked red tail – is a source of joy. They should be celebrated, not persecuted“.

Iolo Williams, broadcaster and former RSPB species officer, said: “The red kite is Wales’ national bird and many of us remember it being incredibly rare and confined to mid-Wales. Hundreds of landowners, wardens and volunteers worked incredibly hard for so many decades to ensure the kite population thrived that I am both baffled and disgusted by this horrific incident.”

PC Charlie Jones, of the Dyfed-Powys Rural Crime Team, said: “It is illegal to intentionally harm or kill a red kite, or any other bird of prey, making this an act of criminality. Wales is home to a significant population of breeding red kites and therefore we take any offences against them very seriously, and wish to hear from anyone who has information which may help with our investigation.”

If you have any information relating to this incident, call Dyfed-Powys Police on 101.

If you find a wild bird of prey which you suspect has been illegally killed, email RSPB Investigations on or fill in the online form:


45 thoughts on “Red kite found shot dead on land managed for pheasant shooting in Wales”

  1. What a shame she didn’t call out the police at the time, instead of sharing on social media, possibly giving the perps time to remove the evidence.

    Would she have done the same if the bodies were human?

    1. I would not be too quick to criticise the woman. The fact that she made an effort to publicise the event indicates that she was probably well intentioned. Unfortunately the criminal(s) may have been warned.
      This is another bird killing where the police have been quick out of the starting blocks to make an appeal for information (long may that continue).
      Something has changed. After years of wasting months prior to calling for information it is now happening after a few days. Perhaps a policy change and/or perhaps some tail twisting.

      1. ‘I would not be too quick to criticise the woman.’
        Yes, but the police and government and media are obviously not getting our message across in that she didn’t know how to respond.
        If the government really cared about raptor crime they would have a public campaign so no one could left in any doubt as to what to do. Something along the lines of ‘keep Britain tidy’ ‘buckle up,’ ‘drunk driving kills’ etc. It can’t be that difficult in this day and age.
        So with the information she had, this woman did an excellent job especially in such a critical time.

      2. I have no doubt that a significant factor in the early releases of information and appeals for assistance in several recent cases, involving dead Hen Harriers, Red Kites and Common Buzzards, is that the birds had been shot. It is much more straightforward to put out a definitive appeal if you know what the cause of death appears to have been. An X-ray and physical examination revealing that a bird has been freshly shot triggers an obvious response – something which does not readily occur if a bird is simply found lying dead with no obvious signs of a crime having occurred.

        Poisoning, whether from illegal poison baits or the cumulative effects of rodenticides from kites having fed on poisoned rats, can take up to three months to confirm – sometimes more. That’s the system that we’re stuck with.

    2. You could look at another way, Simon. If she had not posted the images, Iolo Williams would not have went out and found the third bird, ensuring that there was some form of “real” evidence. If that had not happened, and all the evidence was of some photographic images, the shooting industry could have, and most probably would have, declared the incident as some form of “fake news” story.

  2. Presumably this is an indication of what is happening on shooting estates throughout the UK, at a time when public access is restricted. The sight of the dead Red Kite found by Iolo Williams, just lying there having been deprived of its life, makes me want to strangle the culprit (metaphorically of course). Anyone who shoots this bird, just for being a predator, is both hypocritical and evil. Simple as that. We need far more investigators to help stamp out this vile practice they call predator control.

  3. I do not known why Iolo Williams is ‘baffled’ by this killing of red kites. Does he lead a sheltered life?

    It is highly pertinent that the Countryside Alliance and the Country Land and Business Association have called on the Justice Secretary to review the CPS, National Police Chiefs’ Council and College of Policing advice that people may travel into the countryside to enjoy exercise. They want ‘nosey parkers’ to be kept away from their activities:

    1. He probably said ‘baffled’ because red kites are practically THE raptor species with least likelihood of having any impact on gamebird stocks (and that’s no justification for killing birds of prey anyway), so this killing wasn’t just as ethically repugnant as any other it was particularly pointless. He’s never led a sheltered life as you condescendingly remarked, he’s actually encountered hen harrier persecution first hand – a nest of dead chicks where x rays revealed every major bone had been broken as if they’d been kicked round like a football. That would be something that never left me, and I’m sure that’s the case for him. He took it upon himself to follow this up so it would have been nice to see him appreciated for that rather than have a comment taken out of context and used to run him down.

      1. Iolo Williams may be taken out of context, but I was so disappointed when on a TV programme he stood beside a failed harrier nest, and clearly stated that he hates foxes! There’s no excuse for such anthropomorphism coming from an experienced naturalist. Does he hate harriers for killing voles and pipits?

      2. “rather than have a comment taken out of contex”

        What was the context, then, if it wasn’t what is quoted by Raptor Persecution?

        It doesn’t ‘baffle’ me that some gun-toting camp-follower of shooting would shoot anything with a hooked beak. Red Kites do take chicks regularly.

        1. The context is that it was a red kite rather than a hen harrier or goshawk, there’s even less justification for thinking a red kite would impact on shooting (and I repeat no right to kill any bird of prey even if they do) than those species. If Iolo had found a dead goshawk then I doubt very much that he would have made the ‘baffled’ reference which you seem to think gave you the right to make a somewhat derogatory and I would say definitely condescending remark about a highly competent and committed conservation who’d went out of their way to pursue this. Do you honestly think that Iolo Williams doesn’t know birds of prey in general are slaughtered on shooting estates? Ah well that’s freedom of speech I suppose, but that’s for everybody so I will point out that you have a nasty habit of making what aren’t even pedantic remarks, but totally groundless criticisms which don’t substitute for being able to make intelligent, constructive ones.

          Incidentally re red kites supposedly taking chicks regularly this is a bit sweeping. An ex gamekeeper known to RPUK once made an idiotic remark that no wader could bring up a brood of chicks within ten kilometres of any of the red kite feeding stations we have in the UK. I contacted three (all the ones I knew of) and was assured they all had quite healthy populations of various wader species on their properties. Now if I ever encounter that tripe being regurgitated by that ex keeper or one of his sycophants I can challenge it directly and with a good deal more authority than that underpinning the original anti kite statement. Not exactly high level detective work, but decidedly better than sitting on my arse and making caustic comments about genuine conservationists who got off theirs.

          1. “there’s even less justification for thinking a red kite would impact on shooting”

            I repeat, they take chicks. They have hooked beaks. In the minds of gun-toting camp-followers of shooters, that is justification enough to illegally kill them. The illegal killing of Red Kites features regularly on Raptor Persecution reports. Perhaps Iolo doesn’t read those reports? Does he not know that Red Kites are regularly persecuted?

            Has he, perhaps, never challenged a game keeper over the killing of Red Kites and heard their reasoning?

            I am ‘baffled’ that anyone famously involved in conservation should state publicly that they are ‘baffled’ by the illegal killing of a Red Kite. Which world are they living in?

            1. Keith, “they take chicks” is hardly a scientific analysis. How often do they take chicks, what species of chicks, how many and to what effect? If you have witnessed this personally, and I’m not denying they may take some “chicks” (I don’t have kites in my study area in west central Scotland), perhaps you can provide answers to these questions through personal experience, especially the most significant final one – to what effect? Or published research? In my Hen Harrier study area, the harriers take “lots” of Meadow Pipits, but my annual transect monitoring of breeding Meadow Pipits shows little variation from one season to the next. So I could say “harriers take chicks,” but it would be meaningless. CCTV monitoring of harrier nests over three consecutive years, on a grouse moor, revealed NOT A SINGLE GROUSE CHICK being brought to any harrier nest. I’m not claiming that is normal, based on a single population, but IF harriers can breed successfully without taking grouse chicks, what effect are Red Kites likely to have?

      1. “Because its a scavenger and not so much a predator”

        Do you really think that gamekeepers care one jot about that? Besides, Red Kites will take chicks. Talk to a gamekeeper and ask him why he would shoot a Red Kite if he could.

        As has been pointed out on this web site, over-flying raptors will disrupt a shoot… doesn’t matter which species they are.

  4. The red kites here are fed on the dead animals and birds the gamekeepers kills as ‘predator control’. There are always a number around the tree where he dumps the carcasses near his shooting hide. Maybe red kites could disturb a pheasant drive on a shoot day?

  5. It becomes increasingly apparent there is only one solution to the problem – an end to driven game shooting as a pastime. We need to engage the political parties in this and work towards

    1. I’m still puzzled myself as to why only “driven” grouse shooting should be banned, but perhaps I’m some sort of extremist wanting all shooting of grouse and other birds to be banished. It’s cruel, selfish and as we all know, a serious threat to Hen Harriers, Red Kites and other native predatory birds. I’d also like to see an end to the slaughter of all native predatory mammals, including foxes, stoats and weasels. We should leave nature to control itself; it’s done that for thousands of years before Man came along. Any intervention we make should be positive, like habitat conservation or replacing poor habitats with rich ones. We could do this without killing anything, just managing our way around them. Recent changes in attitudes within the shooting community towards raptors, predatory mammals, AND conservationists, still threaten our wildlife in general. Ending persecution of birds of prey could be a first step towards a kinder society.

      1. Mmmmmm…why are the police asking for inormation.Igs there not a humungus elephant in the room?

      2. Indeed Iain, gamekeepers trap snare shoot and poison anything….
        At what point will society see the light……

  6. I suspect that many more birds of prey come to untimely ends in or around pheasant shoots. However, given the type of terrain and the frequency such areas are visited they will be much quicker to hide the evidence as a rule. Those meaning harm to birds of prey are more easily concealed and thus it is easier to ambush them too.

  7. Regarding the opinion of CA et al, I am reminded of the Foot & Mouth outbreak. Footpaths were closed and people stopped (two even threatened with a shotgun), because of the supposed risk the public presented. I seem to remember afterwards the main route of transmission was via farming people themselves. A contract milker featured in one instance. Would anyone remember more?

    1. Anecdotally (of course) but I heard of a Cumbria farmer driving all around Cumbria wanting to get F&M so he could retire on the payout. It is just hearsay though

  8. No doubt the CA, NFU et al will condemn the woman for being out and putting the NHS at risk. They have already started bleeting about the police guidelines of you can drive for An hour if your walk is more than two hours, putting lives at risk etc. When in reality they just want the public off their land so that there are no prying eyes.

    1. Mike they don’t want to understand epidemiology but they quite clearly understand eyes and ears in the countryside, something they’d like to avoid if at all possible. Having moved to Wales a couple of years ago from that hot spot of persecution North Yorkshire I am dismayed to find persecution here too and whilst few cases get to the point of being statistics there are far too many breeding goshawks, kites, buzzards and ravens fail in areas of high pheasant density for it to be natural. The best way to help overcome this is as another has suggested ban driven shooting.

  9. As movement restriction requirements affect all of us, shotgun licence holders included, will the police be investigating known licence holders, local to the incident?

  10. I dread to think how many other BOP’s have been “taken out” by the usual suspects over the last couple of weeks:(

  11. Tip of the iceberg I’m afraid.
    Only keepers have any sort of dislike of Kites, often resulting in this outcome.
    If we are able to carry out any useful widespread monitoring of Schedule 1’s this year, the results are predictable given the lack of eyes to see what is going on.

    Keep up the pressure !

  12. isn`t it just so easy to hate Gamekeepers. They make us hate them. At 15 I eagerly took a hampshire bird ringer to a kestrels nest on the edge of a shooting estate that we had been monitoring. To our dismay the nest had been destroyed. An old man with a flat cap appeared and said “they`ve been taking my pheasant poults” That`s when I firsrt knew of this dark satanic force and their lust for killing. I`m 60 now and this same indefensible crap is still rife. I was innocent back then. God help a keeper who dares to tell give me that line again. How the – – – – can this still be happening today??

  13. Perhaps our social distancing is giving the police a little more time to look at rural crimes. If so, I’m all in favour and do hope they catch their man or woman. I also hope that other cruelty that has been overlooked in a lot of cases by the police, will now be researched and historical crimes such as illegal fox hunting and hare coursing will appear in court! If they can bring forward cold cases for us, why not our fellow animals, since we are all animals anyway.

  14. Revoke shotgun and air weapons licences in all areas where there is evidence of illegal shootings of wildlife.After all why do they have to have them in their possession when they are on private land. So they can kill ” vermin ”
    my a… there isn’t any left to kill on many of these private estates come this time of the year as they would have been killed off by illegal substances,traps etc.anyway.
    Better still place the firearms in a secure building,locked away in a secure cabinet with an ID number on it.When the owner of the firearm needs it, they attend secure building produce their shotgun licence,ID and ID number of cabinet their firearm is in .They then sign for firearm and state why and what the firearm is intended for and for how many days it is required(a max of 3 days in any one week)No ammunition will be kept in secure building and none should be carried in any vehicle which will be travelling on public roads.The firearm should then be returned after the relevant number of days.If the firearm has been ” used ” declare the reason and if a ” kill ” has taken place produce photo evidence of such ( of course the user of the firearm could say they fired and ” missed ” or they could clean it prior to its return)Any misuse.licence revoked for a period of ” time ”
    I am aware that the above is more than a none starter but one can dream of some way to disrupt criminals in their desire to illegally kill OUR wildlife.Scum that they are.

  15. I live in the area of this incident and it isn’t just red kites that have drastically diminished in numbers over the past couple of weeks: the ravens I saw daily have disappeared and the goshawk. Sadly police and the judiciary are often involved in shooting and hunting, so I have no hope of a proper investigation. I doubt that there would even be that much interest from the police if Iolo hadn’t been involved.

  16. A quick search found four Red Kite feeding places in Wales. I don’t know the geography, but I assume Dyfed-Powys Police are aware of such visitor attractions in or near their area, and their relevance to the local economy.

    That alone should add to their motivation.

    1. None of those feeding stations are near the place of the birds being killed, but there is one of the biggest shooting estates in the UK just a few minutes up the road. Go figure!

  17. I have read many reports like this one about the red kites in Wales,but the so called punishment doesn’t fit the crime.They are given very little deterent .l am a frequent visitor to nidderdale to watch birds of prey but now l find out this is a hotspot for birdcrime .To quote Spock The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few ,we need to take action now

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