Kestrel found shot dead in Worcestershire

A kestrel has been found shot dead in the village of Broadwas in Worcestershire. It was discovered on 10 January 2017.

This information was sent to us by a blog reader (thank you). The kestrel had been ringed in Warwickshire in June 2016 and whoever found the body in Worcestershire reported the ring number to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), who then sent a ‘ringing return’ note to the bird ringer, to inform him / her of the bird’s death.

According to this ringing return, the bird had been categorised as being ‘dead for more than a week, not fresh, found shot’.

What’s interesting about this, apart from the utter stupidity of the person who shot this bird (it’s a kestrel for god’s sake, what possible reason would there be for shooting it?), is what happens to the data after being reported to the BTO.

It’s our understanding that the BTO does not, as a matter of routine, forward data about suspected persecution incidents to the Police or the RSPB.

If our understanding is correct, this situation is quite astonishing. Surely there’s an ethical responsibility for the BTO to report suspected persecution incidents, to allow the Police or RSPB to undertake follow up investigations? Even if nothing comes of any investigation, these cases would still provide useful background intelligence and, importantly, would contribute to a better understanding of the extent of illegal raptor persecution in a given area. Reporting suspected crimes to the Police / RSPB would not affect the usefulness of the data to the BTO – the BTO could still use the data for trend analyses etc, it’s not as though the data point would be ‘lost’ if it was reported to the authorities.

How many of these suspected persecution incidents go unreported by the BTO every year? Is it the BTO’s responsibility to report suspect crimes, or is it the responsibility of the ringer (once notified of the circumstances of a bird’s death via the ringing return from the BTO), or is it nobody’s responsibility?

It’s all very strange.

Photo of a kestrel by Graham Catley

UPDATE 3.30pm: The BTO has responded to this post on Twitter as follows: ‘The finder has responsibility to report any suspicious deaths but we will review to see if there is more we can do’. Good for them.

21 Responses to “Kestrel found shot dead in Worcestershire”

  1. January 20, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    Surely it should be the responibbility of the finder of the shot bird to report it to the police?

    • 2 dave angel
      January 20, 2017 at 2:57 pm

      For all we know whoever found the bird may have reported it to the police. It would seem odd if someone was interested and knowledgeable enough to send the ring to the BTO and not report the find to the Police.

      The BTO should though report such things to the police as a matter of course.

      • 3 Simon Tucker
        January 20, 2017 at 7:05 pm

        The BTO is strapped for cash as it is, and runs on minimal administrative staff: I know, I am a ringer, GBW, BBS volunteer and also volunteer on several other surveys and my costs have gone though the roof as they try to maintain their current levels of staffing. I would urge anyone tempted to criticise the BTO to join and boost their funding so they might be able to afford some additional administrative staff.

  2. 6 Winn-D
    January 20, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    I agree with Hirundo it should be the finder’s responsibility to report the crime. I had a female Peregrine chick ringed in Kent found dead on top of poison bait in Lincolnshire and followed up the BTO notification to confirm the finder had reported it to the police and they had. Incidentally with poisonings in addition to the police they should be reported to the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme on 0800 321600 as the wildlife investigators have their own access warrants and specialised toxicology analysis

  3. 8 AlanTwo
    January 20, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    ‘…what possible reason would there be for shooting it?’ I know a gamekeeper on a large farm/small estate (that claims to be strongly pro-wildlife) who swears blind that kestrels are the biggest threat to his red-legs. He hates them with a vengeance, and nothing I say makes any difference.
    Having a hooked beak is reason enough for some people.

  4. 9 crypticmirror
    January 20, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    If it has curved beak and talons then it is a viable target to some. That is all the reason they need.

  5. January 20, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    The BTO has responded – see UPDATE at foot of blog.

  6. January 20, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    I think you are being a bit hard on the BTO here. They have a ring number reported to them. If the finder reports that it was shot/trapped/poisoned they only have the finder’s word for that. They have no evidence of a crime and the police would take no notice, I suspect (particularly as there are so many instances where they take no action when there IS evidence!). It’s has to be the finder’s responsibility. Why not ask the BTO for their comments and/or policy?

  7. 13 I C T
    January 20, 2017 at 8:38 pm

    The finder may know jot about birds, or for instance that the bird he has just found dead may be have been poisoned but there may be no obvious signs of crime.

  8. January 20, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    Surely the BTO must receive hundreds of reports that contain the word “shot,” where the bird is not a legal target species. Some people will shoot anything so is it really safe to include a kestrel in the same issue as the larger raptors such as Harriers and Eagles. I don’t mean to lessen the importance crime in any way of course, just maybe question the context.

    • 15 Graham Shepherd
      January 20, 2017 at 10:03 pm

      What on earth is Bob Morris on about? If BTO receive hundreds of reports on illegally shot birds, then they should be reporting them all. Why are Kestrels less important than bigger birds?

  9. 16 Calm Summer
    January 20, 2017 at 9:46 pm

    Surely everyone has the right to protect their vole population!

    Senseless, pointless, ignorant, draconian,primative criminality.

  10. 17 lizzybusy
    January 21, 2017 at 12:16 am

    I want to send this letter off but who do I send it to? Thanks.

    To whom it may concern

    I have recently read an article on Raptor Persecution UK about the discovery on 10 June last year of the carcass of a kestrel in Broadwas, Worcestershire. The kestrel had been shot.

    I would be grateful if you could confirm whether or not the two offences listed below have been considered in relation to the incident. If not, I would ask that the incident is investigated with a view to establishing whether or not these crimes have been commited.

    Thank you.

    Offence 1
    Protection of Birds Act 1954, S1(a) – Protection of wild birds, their nests and eggs

    “If, save as permitted by or under this Act, any person wilfully

    (a)kills, injures or takes, or attempts to kill, injure or take (ie capture), any wild bird; or

    he shall be guilty of an offence against this Act …

    Offence 2
    Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, S1 Protection of wild birds, their nests and eggs.

    S1 “Protection of wild birds, their nests and eggs.

    (1)Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person intentionally—
    (a)kills, injures or takes any wild bird;

    he shall be guilty of an offence.”

  11. 18 Winn-D
    January 21, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    My understanding is that when the public report a ring number they get an automated acknowledgement, and some time later (4 days for a Herring Gull ring last week read in the field by a birder) the BTO admin person retrieves the data and notifies the finder and ringer. I think 4 days is pretty good considering they must be dealing with lots of reports from all over UK and Eire but if a crime is involved it is a long time and any useful evidence may be lost. Perhaps the automated acknowledgement should say (if not already) if the bird is found in suspicious circumstances please contact local police immediately to report the incident. They should then be referred to the county Wildlife Crime Officer who can make an informed decision of the legality of the circumstances, although this is very variable between regions in terms of how seriously the force takes wildlife crime. In fairness to the public I think if most folks found remains of an obviously shot buzzard or a kite on top of a rabbit carcase etc they would have the common sense to call the police anyway, unless they have game shooting interests themselves.

    With regard to accurate reporting of persecution incidents the cause of death needs to be confirmed and recorded on national police or HSE statistics and this can only be reliable if the evidence of the finder is examined by police or defra wildlife investigators. If BTO reported crime on the basis of unconfirmed reports the data would be highly questionable and when it comes to raptor persecution the credibility of data must be above question.

  12. 19 steve macsweeney
    January 22, 2017 at 11:19 am

    I spoke about this to a BTO member who in turn took this issue up with “a senior official” of the BTO.
    The response from the BTO was a bit wooly, it is not in a position to pass personal data to the police [ name address of finder etc] so generally has done nothing.It also claims that it is not always easy to establish the cause of death, particularly if the body has been there for a few days……
    There is a BTO Wildlife Crime meeting on Tuesday this week I understand when this matter will be discussed in more detail, not least to prompt a finder to contact the police when a protected bird is found dead or injured.
    Well done RPUK for highlighting this issue, hopefully in future these matters will be taken more seriously.

  13. 20 Matt
    January 24, 2017 at 11:05 am

    Hi RPUK,

    Can you ask the blog reader to forward on details of this shot Kestrel to crime@rspb.org.uk so it can be captured on the database? Was there a radiograph or other confirmation of cause of death?


    [Ed: Hi Matt, the details have been forwarded to the RSPB Investigations team]

  14. 21 Andrew
    January 25, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    There is an additional problem relating to rescue centres. There are circumstances where a raptor is obviously so badly injured that euthanasia is the only option. Some, in those circumstances, do not investigate with x-ray to see if the bird has been shot. It costs too much.
    How many crimes are being missed in these circumstances?

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