Co Down named and shamed in bird persecution report

The red kite
The red kite

County Down is one of the worst regions in the United Kingdom for the number of incidents of illegal bird of prey persecutions, according to a charity.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) found the area is sixth out of 88 regions for birds of prey persecution incidents in a five-year period.

Between 2012-2017, there were 19 incidents in the county, including the illegal killing of nine red kites.

Red Kites were reintroduced to Northern Ireland in 2008 and the population remains unstable.

The new Birdcrime 2017 report by the RSPB has found birds of prey continue to be at risk in the UK with 68 confirmed incidents of detected illegal bird of prey persecution in 2017.

Five of these known incidents last year were in Northern Ireland.

These included three buzzards, two peregrine falcons, a red kite and a sparrowhawk.

Two of the incidents occurred in County Antrim, one in County Londonderry, one in County Down and one in County Tyrone.

While the Birdcrime report focuses on the figures between January and December 2017, in 2018 there was an incident in Katesbridge, County Down, with a breeding pair of red kites - with three eggs in their nest - dying from an illegally held poison in April.

Roisin Kearney, RSPB NI conservation officer, said the shocking figures only “scratch the surface” with other incidents believed to be going undetected.

“The persecution of birds of prey is a widespread problem in the UK and it’s a grim statistic that County Down is sixth in terms of persecution incidents from 2012 to 2017,” she said.

“It’s sad that in 2018, which marks the 10th anniversary of red kites being reintroduced to Northern Ireland, we are still seeing red kites and other birds of prey being targeted.

“For each persecution incident we hear about, scientific studies suggest there are many more that go undetected and unreported.

“As such, these figures only scratch the surface of the true extent of raptor persecution.”