Young peregrine shot in County Antrim

The Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group has sent us the following press release and photo:

‘During July a peregrine nest site, in Glenwherry, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland was the site of a gruesome discovery.

Two young peregrines were being watched over recent months in the nest and one of the chicks which had only recently flown from the nest was found dead below the cliff. X-rays have revealed the bird was shot.

The quarry owner who keeps a close eye on the peregrines alerted the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group and condemned this event saying “I cannot believe one of these chicks which we all were watching has been shot. I appeal to those responsible to think about what they have done or come forward with what they might know and report any further information to the police”.

Jim Wells, chairman of the NIRSG and MLA was angered at yet another peregrine falcon senselessly killed. He said “Every summer it is the same – illegally poisoned or shot falcons. This has to stop. It is an absolute disgrace that anyone thinks they have justification for shooting a rare and specially protected bird.”

The PSNI are appealing for anyone, particularly in the Broughshane, Glenwhirry or Larne area, who may have information as to who is responsible for shooting this protected bird. This latest incident of raptor persecution clearly indicates that some people are still prepared to break the law risking a custodial sentence, their livelihoods and their right to possess firearms.

Anyone that has any information about this incident, peregrine persecution in Northern Ireland or any other wildlife crime should report it directly to the police or anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 to bring these criminals to justice’.

The Belfast Telegraph (here) is reporting a £1,000 reward is on offer to anyone who can help catch those responsible.

The Northern Ireland Birdwatchers’ Association is suggesting that all four peregrines from this nest site (two adults and two chicks) have been killed (see here).

Thanks to NIRSG and to our Twitter followers in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic for the information.

RSPB’s Birdcrime 2010 report published

The RSPB has published its annual report on raptor persecution in the UK (Birdcrime 2010). Poisoning reports are down (128 reported in 2010; 153 reported in 2009). Birds confirmed poisoned in 2010 include:

20 red kites, 30 buzzards, 8 peregrines, 5 golden eagles, 2 goshawks, 1 sparrowhawk and 1 white-tailed eagle.

Meanwhile, the RSPB are using the publication as an opportunity to call for a crackdown on poisons, according to the BBC website. It says the current law, which makes it illegal to possess certain pesticides, is rendered ‘impotent’ because the list of controlled substances hasn’t been published in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

We’ll write more about the Birdcrime 2010 report over the coming few days. BBC news article here. Birdcrime 2010 report here


Police apparently fail to attend suspected multiple buzzard poisoning

Late last week, three dead buzzards were found next to a suspected poisoned rabbit carcass in an area with a long track record of raptor poisoning incidents. The person who found the dead birds took some photographs before returning home to alert the police. The police allegedly informed him later that night that they couldn’t attend, and instead they asked him to collect the evidence(!). When he returned to the scene, unsurprisingly the three dead buzzards and the suspected rabbit bait had vanished. A dead magpie, perhaps missed by the suspected poisoners, was recovered from the scene and has been sent for toxicology testing.

Clear cut evidence, if it was needed, that the ‘official’ annual poisoning figures released each year are indeed just the tip of the iceberg. These three buzzards will not be included because they’re unavailable for analysis.

The location where they were discovered was in the Drumbanagher/Poyntzpass area of Northern Ireland, an area known for commercial game-shooting interests. The following birds have all been confirmed poisoned in this area in recent years:

2006 – 1 x buzzard confirmed poisoned.

2008 – 4 x buzzards confirmed poisoned (alphachloralose).

2009 – 2 x red kites confirmed poisoned (alphachloralose). One survived, the second bird died.

2011 – 1 x buzzard found under a hedge, too badly decomposed for analysis. 3 x buzzards suspected poisoning – carcasses removed before police investigate. Dead magpie sent for analysis.

Thank you to the contributor who sent us this information.

UPDATE: The magpie tested positive for Alphachloralose.

Northern Ireland introduces prison sentences for raptor killers

Sentencing options for criminals convicted of wildlife crime offences in Northern Ireland, including the illegal killing of birds of prey, have been brought into line with the rest of the UK. For the first time, anyone convicted of a wildlife crime offence in Northern Ireland can face a maximum six month prison term. Fines have also been doubled up to a maximum £5,000.

There is a caveat, of course. Environment Minister Alex Attwood said: “For the first time custodial sentences will be an option for the most serious and persistent offenders“. He doesn’t quantify what a ‘serious’ offender is, nor what constitutes a ‘persistent’ offender.

Whilst the new penalties are a welcome sign from a society no longer willing to accept illegal raptor persecution, it’s hoped that those responsible for interpreting and enforcing the law in Northern Ireland have a better success rate than their colleagues in England and Scotland. Even though a custodial sentence has been an option for some time in these countries, so far nobody has received one for a raptor persecution crime, despite some truly appalling incidents of illegal raptor killing.

Full story available on the BBC website here

peregrine shot in Northern Ireland had to be euthanised

Following on from the good news in the Irish Republic (see previous post), the news from Northern Ireland puts us firmly back in reality. A peregrine falcon found injured with gunshot wounds to its wing has had to be euthanised by a vet due to the extent of its injuries.

The injured peregrine was euthanised after a veterinary examination

The bird was found by a member of the public in County Down and police have now launched an investigation, warning that those responsible will face court action.

A Northern Ireland Assembly member, Jim Wells, who is also a founder member of the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group,  said there had been a number of targetted attacks on peregrines in recent months, with a further two incidents reported earlier this autumn. Jim blamed what he described as ‘rogue elements’ in the pigeon fanciers/pigeon racing community for attacks on peregrines, although he thought this most recent incident was likely to have been a case of mistaken or accidental shooting by wildfowlers.

Four years ago, Jim’s group said they believed a ‘hit man’ had been hired by racing pigeon enthusiasts to shoot peregrines in Northern Ireland and said as many as 30 peregrines had been shot.

BBC news story:

RSPB Birdcrime 2009 Report Shows Continuing Raptor Persecution

The RSPB’s annual Birdcrime 2009 report was published today and shows that 2009 was the second worst year for raptor persecution in the last decade.

This depressing report shows that there were 384 reported persecution incidents against birds of prey in the UK  during 2009, 123 in Scotland, 224 in England, 17 in Wales and 11 in Northern Ireland, 9 incidents could not be allocated to a single country and were recorded at a UK level. Incidents include trapping, shooting, poisoning and nest destruction.

Again the trend showed that most incidents involved game shooting interests with a bias towards the upland grouse moors in Scotland and Northern England where the main victims of persecution are: golden eagle, white-tailed eagle, hen harrier, goshawk, peregrine and red kite.

In the report, the RSPB has made 11 recommendations for government action, so that these appalling crimes can be eradicated. These include the introduction of a “vicarious liability” offence which would make land managers and owners responsible for the actions of their employees.

Despite several successful prosecutions the conviction rate and subsequent sentencing appears pitifully poor and ineffective.

Full RSPB Report –


sea eagle shot on lough neagh

Oct 2009. A white-tailed sea eagle which was found dead in Lough Neagh, County Antrim, is suspected to have been shot.

The bird, a protected species, was released into Killarney National Park in Co Kerry as part of a reintroduction programme which began two years ago.

Dr Allan Mee, who is in charge of the project, said there were two pellet holes in the animal’s transmitter. 

The transmitter was retrieved from the eagle by two canoeists, who were in the Lady’s Bay area, on 17 October.

Dr Marc Ruddock of the NIRSG, who coordinated searches for the bird, said: “The resources, time and enthusiasm that go into the re-introduction program is phenomenal, the loss of even one of the white-tailed eagles is devastating.”

Full story.