The RSPB has just issued the following press release:
RED KITE FOUND SHOT ON GROUSE MOOR IS ‘FIGHTING FOR ITS LIFE’
- The protected bird of prey was found grounded on a grouse moor in County Durham, in March 2023
- An X-ray revealed multiple pieces of shot within the bird’s body
- Durham Police and the RSPB are appealing for information
A Red Kite – a species protected by UK law – was found in Edmundbyers, County Durham in a stricken condition, peppered with shot and is currently fighting for its life in a bird hospital.
A member of the public noticed the bird at the side of a public footpath along Burnhope Burn on 17 March 2023 and reported it to the RSPB. Arriving on the scene, RSPB Investigations Officers found the Red Kite hiding in bracken, alive but unable to fly.
It was taken to a wildlife rehabilitator and looked over by a vet. An X-ray revealed the bird’s entire body was peppered with shot including pieces that had broken its wing.
All birds of prey are legally protected, making it a criminal offence to intentionally kill or injure one, punishable by an unlimited fine or jail.
Red Kites were historically persecuted in the UK but are making a comeback thanks to official reintroduction programmes in recent decades supported by Government. However these birds take a long time to spread out, and illegal killing is preventing the species expanding and gaining a foothold in areas where they were formerly found before they were driven to extinction in England around the late nineteenth century.
This incident comes in the same week when news of another Red Kite was found shot in Grantown-on-Spey, [Ed: see here] in the Scottish Highlands, also in March 2023. Sadly, it had to be euthanised due to the extent of its injuries.
This area of County Durham inside the North Pennines AONB has a history of raptor persecution. In 2021, another red kite was found dead near Edmundbyers, Co Durham having been illegally poisoned. Police-led searches in the area followed last year, however no one was prosecuted.
And in 2020, two Red Kites fitted with satellite tags unexpectedly and inexplicably vanished in the same area: one tag sent its last fix from the Derwent Gorge, the other from a grouse moor near Derwent Reservoir. Neither the birds or their tags were found, and it is believed they were illegally killed.
The link between driven grouse shooting and the illegal killing of birds of prey has been well documented. The RSPB’s latest Birdcrime report showed that 71% of all confirmed incidents of raptor persecution were in connection to gamebird shooting.
Jack Ashton-Booth, RSPB Investigations Officer, said:
“The kite is currently receiving the best care, and we understand it has been hopping up onto a perch and feeding itself. However it’s still not out of the woods. We are incredibly grateful to the diligent member of the community who noticed and reported the bird, and urge anyone else who finds a dead or injured bird of prey in suspicious circumstances to do the same. It could save a bird’s life and help us identify a raptor killer at large. We are also hugely grateful to Jean Thorpe, who is caring for the bird, as she has done so many others.
“It’s unlikely this Red Kite will have flown far from where it was shot. If you have any information about who might have done this, or know of anyone shooting birds of prey in this area, please get in touch.”
Friends of Red Kites (FoRK), a voluntary monitoring and community engagement organisation based in the North East, commented:
“We are sickened to hear that yet another Red Kite has been found on the moorlands of the North Pennines suffering from illegal persecution. Since the re-introduction of Red Kites to the North East of England in 2004, a number of birds have been found dead on or adjacent to these moorlands which are managed for grouse shooting. After nearly 20 years the population of breeding kites has barely advanced above 20 pairs. By comparison, populations of kites in other areas where they have been released, like the Chilterns, are booming. It is a sad indictment on parts of society that the people of the North East are denied seeing these beautiful birds gracing our skies more widely.”
If you have any information, contact Durham Constabulary’s Wildlife Crime Officer, PC Dave Williamson, by emailing email@example.com or calling in to Barnard Castle Police Station.
Alternatively, to share sensitive information in confidence, call the RSPB’s Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101.