Dead red kite in south Scotland now confirmed poisoned

Further to yesterday evening’s blog about a dead red kite found in south Scotland in January that “may” have been poisoned (see here), the BBC news article has now been updated (6/4/18) to confirm this bird was definitely poisoned:


Police investigating the death of a protected bird of prey have said it was poisoned.

The body of the red kite was found by a member of the public in the Durham Hill Lane area of Kirkpatrick Durham in Castle Douglas on 20 January.

An investigation has been launched and officers involved in it have appealed for information.

[Red kite photo from Scottish Raptor Study Group]

PC Alan Steel, a specialist wildlife crime officer, said the illegal use of poison can be deadly for wild birds.

He said: “Due to the inherent scavenging nature of red kites, they are particularly vulnerable to the illegal use of poisonous bait.

Red kites are legally protected and Police Scotland works closely with partner agencies, including the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC), Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.”

RSPB Scotland’s head of investigations said illegal poison use can also harm pets and people.

Numbers of detected cases of illegal poisoning of our birds of prey have, thankfully, been very low in recent years, so this case is of serious concern,” Ian Thomson added.

The Galloway Red Kite trail, just a few miles from where this bird was killed, is a popular tourist attraction and of great benefit to the local economy.”


39 Responses to “Dead red kite in south Scotland now confirmed poisoned”

  1. 1 Roberta Mouse
    April 6, 2018 at 11:42 am

    I live near there…I’ve always enjoyed watching the fairly large number of Kites circling around the area. Such a shame….There are several shoots in this area so it wouldn’t surprise me if a Gamekeeper or farmer was responsible for the demise of this poor creature. I’m not sure exactly which poisons are still permissible and those that are banned but surely now it’s time to ban the use of ALL poisons. Otherwise ambiguity can be used in mitigation, even supposing the user is ever found ! It being the 21st century there are bound to be alternatives to this indiscriminate and lazy form of persecution of wildlife…

  2. 2 SilverBirch
    April 6, 2018 at 11:51 am

    If ScotGovernment had any gumption, they could halt ALL shooting. A short, sharp shock delivered to those who think they are untouchable. Muir of Ord not long ago, now this.
    A cynic might think the Ministers responsible were not interested…

    • 3 Roberta Mouse
      April 6, 2018 at 11:59 am

      Yes, interestingly such a move might revive their support somewhat. Most people dislike shooting intensely even if many of them are afraid to say so !

  3. 4 Secret Squirrel
    April 6, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    It’s an inetersting proposition, previous instances of things that have been made illegal having previously been legal include pistol shooting and posession of air weapons without a licence. However, I suspect the economic arguement in suddenly banning game shooting would outweigh the (obvious) wildlife benefits.

    We rightly focus on driven grouse shooting and moorland birds, but you also have the other persecution that occurs in woodland and farming from equally unenlightened pheasant and partridge keepers.

  4. 5 dave angel
    April 6, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    Calling for a ban on all shooting because a red kite has ingested poison is playing into the hands of the DGS industry.

    • 6 Roberta Mouse
      April 6, 2018 at 2:45 pm

      I would support a total ban not just ‘because a red kite has ingested poison’, rather because it is a cruel, barbaric, disgusting hobby that a minority indulge in and which causes untold deaths and suffering of other wildlife…it really is time for everyone to stand up for wildlife instead of all this spineless ‘we cant do or say this or that because’ rubbish. This is just the latest in a very long line of acts of persecution in case you hadn’t noticed. !

      • 7 dave angel
        April 6, 2018 at 3:26 pm

        You can say or do what you want (and perhaps you could extend that privilege to others who might have a different view). The point remains. Calling for a ban on shooting because a red kite has ingested poison is playing into the hands of the DGS industry, at a time when we might just be moving towards a licensing system. Anything that could imperil that goal should be resisted.

        In any case, for the moment we don’t know whether this bird was persecuted, it’s just as likely to have been an accidental poisoning.

        • 8 Roberta Mouse
          April 6, 2018 at 5:21 pm

          Accidental poisoning in what way exactly. Somebody had to either poison it, or something it ate….even if the latter then someone is indirectly responsible. How many more have to suffer and die before ‘licensing’ is enacted…and will that really help. For me any kind of shooting is blatant cruelty and as such yes, I think it should be illegal. if trigger happy people want to practice shooting at targets perhaps that is a business opportunity for shooting ranges right there…just leave our wildlife alone ! This latest death is the tip of the iceberg !

      • 9 Mick
        April 7, 2018 at 9:53 pm

        Well said Roberta can’t agree more, these people have something missing

    • 10 SilverBirch
      April 6, 2018 at 3:16 pm

      A complete and immediate ban on shooting on any estate where poisoning or raptor persecution occurs. I’m beyond caring whether it vexes the ‘sporting’ set, it is time they learned that this behaviour is illegal and unacceptable.

  5. 12 Les Wallace
    April 6, 2018 at 2:39 pm

    It would be interesting to know if there are any calculations or estimates of how the expansion of the red kite has been affected by persecution at all its reintroduction sites, I would imagine they’ve still to recover most of their historic range. The horrendous and blatant killings at the Black Isle have been so intense that they may make it look as if they’ve been limited at other sites, but in fact that could only be in relation to what’s happened there. I can’t help feeling that more than twenty years after the were brought back at Doune we should be getting a few more red kites making an appearance in Falkirk District, there’s certainly a fair bit of pheasant shooting between us and Doune, which makes me wonder. No question we have to come down like a ton of bricks on the bastards that are doing this everywhere and anywhere, but at the same time I’d love to see a few more red kite translocations to spots where they still aren’t breeding, and are a fair distance from any likely persecution to lessen the impact of the persecutors (and thereby give them the two fingers). A few spots right in the middle of the central belt of Scotland come to mind for starters…..mmmm near my flat would be pretty good?

    • 13 dave angel
      April 6, 2018 at 4:26 pm

      In the interests of balance, and in case anyone is browsing this site hoping to gain some understanding of the arguments, (legislators for instance), can I just say that not everyone on this side of the fence wants to ban shooting.

      I hope that idea doesn’t upset too many people.

      • 14 Roberta Mouse
        April 6, 2018 at 5:29 pm

        Would you mind explaining your position. It seems something of a paradox that you support the protection of Raptors yet also support the shooting of other creatures for entertainment. I am truly interested to understand.

        • 15 dave angel
          April 6, 2018 at 11:04 pm

          Do you think there is any paradox in a non vegan being opposed to raptor persecution?

          • 16 Roberta Mouse
            April 7, 2018 at 10:27 am

            Of course, although each individual will act according to their own conscience. I realise this is not the place for a philosophical discussion and so will not pursue my previous question, that you are apparently too uncomfortable to address, but which I genuinely would genuinely have liked to understand……

            • 17 dave angel
              April 7, 2018 at 11:39 am

              I’m against a ban on shooting, that does not mean I support shooting. I don’t shoot but have no objection to others doing so, if they want, so long as they act responsibly and stay within the law.

              I see no paradox between that and being opposed to raptor persecution.

              There again I eat meet and am quite happy to slaughter midges in their hundreds if the occasion requires it.

              • 18 Roberta Mouse
                April 7, 2018 at 1:12 pm

                But it is the shooting industry that is responsible for most raptor persecution, so in supporting that you are in effect NOT supporting raptor protection . Yes I live a vegan lifestyle but I dont think this needs to be a point of contention in this particular discussion. If something is blatantly cruel and wrong I believe it should just be spoken of as such and criticised openly. Even the ethos of ‘people should be allowed to whatever they like unless it causes harm’ doesn’t encompass this behaviour. Harm it most definitely does cause….

              • April 8, 2018 at 11:26 am

                Dave, for me the deciding factor isn’t whether shooting is in itself against someone’s personal values, it is the fact that driven grouse shooting is dependent and profits from raptor persecution and a ban is the only solution because the shooting establishment can’t control itself and the criminals and their bosses can’t be caught.
                Personally i would like to see all shooting licensed and driven grouse shooting banned.
                Many of our laws are based on the common good weighed against the freedom of the individual.
                I doubt if there are many readers of this blog who don’t favour a ban on driven grouse shooting. Even very cautious people like Alan Stewart can find no alternative.

                • 20 dave angel
                  April 8, 2018 at 3:36 pm

                  There’s no prospect of shooting being banned, or even of just DGS being banned. There is however a reasonable chance (in Scotland) of shooting estates being licensed. That’s the goal we should be focussed on.

                  • 21 Iain Gibson
                    April 8, 2018 at 6:16 pm

                    Licensing will have very little effect on the fundamental environmental problems created by grouse moor management. Nor will it make any significant difference to raptor persecution. Gamekeepers are already becoming more cautious and clandestine in how they go about their business. I sometimes wonder if those who support licensing as the way ahead understand the mindset of the average gamekeeper. They hate raptors with a vengeance, especially Hen Harriers, and see them purely as vermin to be eliminated. We have to continue to fight for a ban on grouse shooting at least, as licensing will only delay, for another two decades or more, the demise of the ultimate problem. I believe it is naive to expect otherwise.

      • 22 Andrew Archer
        April 7, 2018 at 12:03 am

        Dave – you cannot be surprised that some folk have had enough of appeasing the shooters. If they law abiding among them will not call out the criminals (and let’s not forget that is what they are) then they should not be surprised if some people tar them all with the same brush.

        • 23 dave angel
          April 7, 2018 at 11:32 am

          There are signs that the law abiding among them are starting to object to the illegal activities of some of their number.

          We need to win over more of them, not alienate them.

          That’s why responding to a report of the death of a red kite due to ingesting poison by calling for a complete ban on shooting is counter productive.

      • 24 Flash
        April 7, 2018 at 10:03 am

        Not wishing to upset you, Dave, but it reads like you’re actually sitting on the fence.

      • 25 Les Wallace
        April 7, 2018 at 1:10 pm

        I don’t want to ban all shooting either, but I would say that I spoke to one of the volunteers at the Argaty centre in Doune four years ago and they told me the farm still held a pheasant shoot at the time of the reintroduction. After some of the shooters ‘mistakenly’ took pot shots at the red kites because of course they are so like pheasants the owners decided to dump pheasant shoots and concentrate on the red kites. This doesn’t fill me with confidence that pheasant shoots are any better than grouse moors for birds of prey and the extreme scarcity of the goshawk when much of the country is absolutely heaving with the wood pigeon, corvids and grey squirrels they’d nosh on seems to bear that out unfortunately.

    • 26 Mick
      April 6, 2018 at 7:19 pm

      I’m sure Ian Carter came up with a calculation for red kites and he may have mentioned it somewhere on this site, I’ve definitely read it somewhere. Maybe Ian can clear that up as he seems to be on here quite often.

      Some of the reintroductions will have been affected and you’ve named one, Black Isle. Grizedale kites are not doing well (under-statement), the Northern Kite population are not doing well either and Yorkshire kites are doing well until they reach the grouse moors and then they disappear or are found dead.

    • 27 Dylanben
      April 6, 2018 at 10:43 pm

      Very topically, from this week’s Craven Herald, here’s an instance of the persecution of Red Kites in the Nidderdale AONB in North Yorkshire being cited as the explanation for there being no known breeding pairs in the immediately adjacent Yorkshire Dales National Park. The Chairman of the NPA is to be applauded for his no-nonsense description of the birds having been ‘hammered’. http://www.cravenherald.co.uk/news/16139042.Red_kites___39_hammered__39__by_persistent_persecution_on_national_park_borders/

  6. 28 Dougoutcanoe
    April 6, 2018 at 6:57 pm

    A relative was involved in the release of the first red kites in Dumfriesshire, some, soon disappeared but one poisoned red kite was found in a primary school playground.

    This was criticised in the locality and local press for the extreme danger young children were put in by the criminals involved. No criminal was charged or brought to justice.

    I believe that they don’t care, as long as the birds with curved beaks are killed.


  7. 30 CRRU user
    April 7, 2018 at 2:20 pm

    It is possible that it was secondary poisoning, if so this is not always the case of farmers or keepers. The general public still have access to rat/mouse poison and even though it may not be of the same strength, unfortunately “the general public” ar3 more often than not the irresponsible party in all of it. Pest Controlers have to go through comprehensive training and also adhere to the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use. So although it was poisoned, they haven’t let on what poison it was! Doo as we know then we can narrow it down and point blame more proportionally

    • 31 Roberta Mouse
      April 8, 2018 at 8:57 am

      At my previous home, there was a colony of brown rats living behind the property. A squeamish neighbour called in the ‘experts’ who put down half a dozen rat poison boxes and left..when I questioned the possibility that wildlife may eat a poisoned animal, she told me ‘dont worry they crawl away to die’. A few days later several dead bodies appeared, in the middle of a nearby lane and while dog walking I saw a Raven tucking into the carcass of one. there were also Kites showing an interest. So damned irresponsible. The neighbour then began buying her own poison and kept the boxes topped up all the time. This is the danger of making it freely available to idiots !

  8. 32 Iain Gibson
    April 8, 2018 at 5:10 am

    I was a wee bit concerned at the wording of Ian Thomson’s quote – “Numbers of detected cases of illegal poisoning of our birds of prey have, thankfully, been very low in recent years, so this case is of serious concern.” Although qualified by the use of the adjective “detected,” some might perceive Ian’s comment as indicating that gamekeepers have become better behaved in recent years. I’m sure Ian, more than most of us, knows this is not the case. Also, I’m not quite sure why a larger number of incidents would cause any individual case to be of less serious concern.

    • April 8, 2018 at 11:42 am

      Yes, very odd in so many ways. Ian appears to have forgotten the mentality of the vast majority of newspapers readers who are not going to pick up on the word ‘detected’ but i presume he thinks it is more than just ‘detected’ crimes but real crimes, otherwise what is there to be thankful about? If the killers are just changing their weapons what is there to be happy about. Ian Thomson is usually an excellent spokesperson.

  9. April 9, 2018 at 12:21 pm

    The placing of poison baits in the open [for whatever reason] has been illegal since the 1912 Protection of Animals [Scotland] Act…the only exceptions being licensed operations….such as the use of alphachloralose for gull control…and such licensing is now virtually non-existent. There is no such thing as an accidental poisoning of wildlife in this day and age…they may have killed a red kite instead of a fox, crow or buzzard but the act is just as illegal..and quite rightly so. I see here the usual and understandable frustrated outrage and calls for new laws and bans…the fact is we’ve got strong laws – the entire problem is perpetuated by a lack of enforcement effort [and misdirected enforcement effort – see the NWCU history in a recent blog] from local police up to Sheriffs and Crown Office.

    • 35 Roberta Mouse
      April 9, 2018 at 1:21 pm

      Presumably, even if perpetrators of these deaths are prosecuted, if the mindset of the judiciary is one which simply views this crime as ‘just an animal’ or that they are interested in shooting themselves or disinclined to be seen to ‘disrupt’ what they perceive as legitimate businesses, then some small token punishment will be handed down and everything carries on as normal. In effect they have got away with it. Are there not conflicts on interests involved, in this regard. ? That of course plus landowners having the ability to employ top legal defence lawyers .

    • 36 dave angel
      April 9, 2018 at 2:11 pm

      Is it not possible that the poison has been laid, in a perfectly legal way, for rats or mice and the kite has then fed on the dead rodent?

      • April 9, 2018 at 2:27 pm

        Dave, it was a banned poison. The Police have not yet revealed the name of it for “operational purposes”.

      • 38 Iain Gibson
        April 9, 2018 at 9:37 pm

        Dave, three words in Dave Dick’s opening sentence answer the legal implication in your question – “in the open.” It is legal to lay down approved pesticide for so-called “vermin” – usually rats or mice – but they must be laid in an appropriate place, and covered. Of course it is possible that if a rodent consumes enough poison, and another animal eats enough of the rodent, death is possible. But no-one has committed a criminal offence.

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