Posts Tagged ‘red kite


5 red kites, 1 buzzard & 1 raven found dead in suspicious circumstances in Oxfordshire

Press article from today’s Oxford Mail:

A police investigation has been launched after five red kites, a raven and a buzzard were discovered dead in a village in Oxfordshire.

The birds were discovered by a family on Sunday, September 17, near the village of Pyrton, on the edge of the Chilterns, who reported them to the RSPB.

All the birds were recovered and x-rayed by a local vet. The x-rays revealed no signs of shot.

However, the birds have now been sent off for toxicology testing by Natural England as part of the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS), to see if the birds have been poisoned.

All birds of prey and ravens are protected by UK law, making it illegal to kill or harm them. Those found to have done so could face six months in jail or an unlimited fine.

Thames Valley Police, Natural England and RSPB are now working together on a joint investigation and are appealing to the public for information.

If you have any information relating to this incident, call Thames Valley Police on 101.

With their six-foot wingspan, red kites are Britain’s third-largest bird of prey and feed mainly on carrion.

If you find a wild bird which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB Investigations on 01767 680551, email or fill in the online form:


Four months after discovery and still no toxicology report?


Poisoning of reintroduced red kites in England: new paper

A new scientific paper has just been published that suggests anti-coagulant rodenticide poisoning, illegal pesticide poisoning, and lead poisoning ‘may be slowing the recovery of red kites in England’.

The paper, ‘Poisoning of reintroduced red kites (Milvus milvus) in England’ has been authored by scientists from the Institute of Zoology, Natural England, FERA Science Ltd and the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and was published online today in the European Journal of Wildlife Research.

The full paper can be accessed here

Photo of a poisoned red kite by Marc Ruddock

The research was undertaken on 162 red kites collected between 1989-2007, so these are pretty old data and the game-shooting apologists will undoubtedly claim that illegal persecution is no longer a problem, ten years on.

However, regular blog readers will be well aware of the long list of confirmed red kite persecution incidents (illegal poisoning and shooting) in England since 2007 (e.g. see here) which is restricting the kite’s population range in some parts of England, just as it is in some parts of Scotland (see here).

Illegal poisoning, coupled with secondary poisoning from anti-coagulant rodenticides and lead poisoning was a problem for the newly-reintroduced red kites and, along with illegal shooting and trapping, still remains a problem 28 years on.

Same shit, different decade.

Here’s the abstract from the new paper:


Chair of Nidderdale AONB condemns illegal raptor persecution

Don’t ever underestimate the power of public pressure.

You know that big solid wall of silence we’re all so used to looking at every time a raptor crime is discovered and reported? It looks like it’s finally beginning to crumble.

The latest to speak out, spontaneously (i.e. without prompting), about the continued illegal killing of birds of prey is the Chair of the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’s Joint Advisory Committee, Councillor Nigel Simms:

He’s obviously taken a lead from the spontaneous statement made by the neighbouring Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority yesterday.

The publication of this statement from the Nidderdale AONB is really, really welcome. The Nidderdale AONB in North Yorkshire is notorious as a raptor persecution hotspot and has been for many years. We’ve lost count of the number of red kites that never make it out of this particular hell hole, although the RSPB has been keeping track – 22 poisoned or shot in the last ten years, and that’s only the ones that were found.

Nidderdale red kite persecution incidents 2007-2017, map by RSPB:

Illegally-killed red kite (photo Marc Ruddock):

We also know that hen harriers rarely get out of Nidderdale alive – unfortunately we can’t show you a detailed map because Natural England wants to keep the details a secret. Natural England is supposed to protect hen harriers but it’s clearly more interested in protecting the reputations of criminal landowners and gamekeepers. Anyway, here’s a photo of an illegally-killed satellite-tagged hen harrier – something you might see if you visit Nidderdale AONB, assuming you get to it before the gamekeeper who shot it:

It’s interesting to see that these crimes are “starting to have a damaging effect on tourism businesses“, according to Cllr Simms. Good, not for the businesses affected, obviously, but good that it will drive increased local pressure to bring these crimes to an end.

Cllr Simms’ comment that illegal raptor persecution “undermines the work of law-abiding landowners and gamekeepers who are actively working alongside us to improve prospects for all forms of wildlife in the AONB” is slightly odd. Which law-abiding landowners and gamekeepers are those? Presumably not anyone involved with any of the aforementioned red kite killings or hen harrier disappearances, nor, presumably, anybody involved with the attempted shooting of a nesting marsh harrier and the removal of its eggs, as filmed on a Nidderdale AONB grouse moor by the RSPB earlier this year?

There’s much work to do in this AONB but this very public condemnation of illegal raptor persecution from the Chair of the AONB Advisory Committee is encouraging. Well done, Cllr Nigel Simms.

Now, who’s next to speak out and bring that wall of silence crashing down?


Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing’s constituency a hotspot for ‘disappearing’ sat-tagged raptors

A few weeks ago we created a map for Mairi Gougeon MSP (Angus & Mearns, SNP) to show her the areas of her constituency where satellite-tagged raptors had either been found illegally killed or had ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances. Unsurprisingly, the main hotspot area was centred on the grouse moors of the Angus Glens.

Mairi, as the Hen Harrier Species Champion, attended this year’s Hen Harrier Day at Loch Leven where she acknowledged the issues and spoke passionately about the need to address illegal raptor persecution. We welcomed her interest and enthusiasm and look forward to seeing her use her position to good effect.

We’ve now created another map, this time for MSP Fergus Ewing’s constituency of Inverness and Nairn. For new readers, Fergus also holds a senior position in the Scottish Government – he is Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity.

This latest map is based on data from the recent expert review of golden eagle satellite tag data and also from the RSPB’s recent map showing the locations of ‘disappeared’ or illegally killed satellite-tagged hen harriers and red kites. Here it is, showing the locations of 15 satellite-tagged raptors (8 x golden eagles, 6 x red kites, 1 x hen harrier) that were either illegally killed in Fergus’s constituency or ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances in his constituency:

And just like the map we created for Mairi, the hotspot areas within Fergus Ewing’s constituency all just happen to be on land managed for driven grouse shooting. Imagine that!

Unlike Mairi Gougeon MSP, as far as we can tell, Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing has never publicly spoken out about the illegal persecution of raptors on grouse moors, either within his own constituency or beyond (if anyone has any evidence to the contrary we’ll be happy to post it here).

He did, sort of, hint at it in a statement he made about grouse shooting in 2015 when he was Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism:

I am very pleased to be able to extend support to all of those who make a success of fields sports in a professional and responsible fashion. Their efforts bring to Scotland a number of visitors who are very welcome and make a significant financial contribution to the sector”

but you’ll note that he very carefully avoided mentioning raptor persecution crimes or any of the other environmentally damaging effects of intensive grouse moor management.

And he can’t claim that he’s unaware of what’s going on – we’ve contacted him on social media many times about this issue, especially when persecution incidents have been detected in his constituency (most recently in July – see here). He has chosen to ignore us at every turn and has given his full public support to grouse moor management in well known raptor persecution hotspots including the Angus Glens and the Monadhliaths.

If you live in Fergus Ewing’s constituency of Inverness and Nairn, you might want to contact him to ask him what he’s doing about the illegal killing of raptors on grouse moors in this area. He has a responsibility to respond to the concerns of his constituents. Email:

If you don’t live in Inverness and Nairn but wish to raise concerns about the level of illegal raptor persecution on the grouse moors of this Cabinet Secretary’s constituency, please use this email address: [and mark it for the attention of Fergus Ewing].

For far too long we’ve allowed certain politicians to get away with wilful blindness about this ongoing criminality. It’s up to all of us to hold these elected representatives to account.


Another red kite found shot dead in County Down

A three-month old red kite has been found shot dead in County Down, Northern Ireland.

The bird, hatched in May and tagged ‘Black 5W’, was found dead on a public road last Thursday (17 August 2017) outside Moneyslane, between Banbridge and Newcastle.

An initial x-ray revealed pieces of shot in the bird’s corpse and the body has now been sent for a full post-mortem.

Anyone with information on the incident can contact the Police Service of Northern Ireland on the non-emergency number 101 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, quoting reference number 837 of 17/8/17.

Further details on BBC News (here) and the Belfast Telegraph (here).

The tiny, reintroduced red kite population in Northern Ireland is under serious threat from on-going persecution. Another red kite was found shot in Co Down in 2015 (here) and in 2014, four kites were illegally killed in Co Down (one was shot, three were poisoned – see here).

In 2016, in response to a PAW report on raptor persecution in Northern Ireland, a new, multi-agency initiative called ‘Operation Raptor‘ was launched, aimed at targeting those who continue to kill protected birds of prey.


Species Champion Mairi Gougeon MSP speaks up for hen harriers

‘Species Champions’ are members of the Scottish Parliament who have agreed to provide political support and awareness for Scotland’s threatened wildlife, under a scheme organised by Scottish Environment LINK.

Mairi Gougeon (nee Evans) MSP is the Species Champion for the hen harrier, and it was fantastic to see her attend Hen Harrier Day at Loch Leven a couple of weeks ago. She wasn’t the only MSP present – also in attendance was Alexander Stewart MSP (Scottish Conservatives) and Andy Wightman MSP (Scottish Greens) – Andy had cycled from Edinburgh and broke his pedal 5 miles away but still managed to make it on time – impressive!

It was gratifying to see all three of these politicians giving up their Saturday to come along. And they didn’t just turn up for the photo call and then clear off; they spent a considerable amount of time talking with the public, asking pertinent questions (and listening to the responses!) and they all stayed to hear the presentations throughout the afternoon. Mairi even gave a short but very encouraging presentation – you can watch it here (it’s only 4 mins long – well worth a listen, thanks to Guy Shorrock for recording it):

Perhaps of all three politicians in attendance, Mairi had the most cause to be there. Not just as the Hen Harrier Species Champion, but also because her SNP constituency is Angus North & Mearns, which includes the Angus Glens grouse moors, a notorious raptor persecution hotspot.

The history of illegal raptor persecution in this area is well known (see here for a long list of incidents), and it’s also known for its lack of breeding hen harriers – not a single recorded breeding attempt on these grouse moors for 11 years, although there was one breeding attempt in the area this year, but it wasn’t on a driven grouse moor. It’s clear from Mairi’s speech that she is well informed about the situation there.

Here’s a map we’ve created for Mairi to study. It’s a map of her constituency and includes data from the recent expert review of golden eagle satellite tag data and also from the RSPB’s recent map showing the locations of ‘disappeared’ or illegally killed satellite-tagged hen harriers and red kites. It’s quite clear that it’s the grouse moor areas of the Angus Glens that are bringing her constituency in to such disrepute.

Thanks to all three MSPs for their genuine interest in protecting the hen harrier and particular thanks and good luck to Mairi – we hope blog readers will support her endeavours to draw political attention to this species’ plight.


More illegal raptor persecution hotspots revealed in new map

Ian Thomson, Head of RSPB Investigations Scotland has written an interesting blog examining the ‘disappearance’ and/or illegal killing of satellite tagged red kites and hen harriers – see here.

It’s well worth a read. And take a close look at this map, illustrating the locations of suspicious disappearances as well as where the corpses have been found:

Here’s a direct quote from Ian:

It is clear from this map that, like golden eagles, the distribution of illegally killed or suspiciously disappeared satellite-tagged red kites and hen harriers is far from random, and shows clear clusters in some upland areas. As with the “hotspots” for eagles, these clusters are almost entirely coincident with land dominated by driven grouse shooting management, again including areas like the northern Monadhliaths and the Angus Glens. But, harriers and kites have clearly being targeted in other regions – notably, but not exclusively, upper Strathspey, Strathnairn and the Lowther Hills of S Lanarkshire‘.

Following the recent news that the RSPB, in partnership with LUSH, has satellite-tagged a record number of hen harriers this year, we can expect many more dots to appear on this map, most of them will be added before Xmas.

We’ll be undertaking some finer analyses of this map, probably next week, and we’ll be asking blog readers to get involved. More on that soon.

There’s one other point in Ian’s blog that is worth highlighting here, in response to the unsubstantiated yet repeated claims by some that raptors do better on driven grouse moors than they do on RSPB reserves:

More pairs of hen harriers bred successfully on one RSPB reserve on Islay in 2017, than on the grouse moors of Aberdeenshire, Kincardineshire, Angus and the Scottish Borders put together. In fact, RSPB nature reserves hold 10% of Scotland’s breeding population of hen harriers, with 46 pairs in 2016‘.

How many hen harriers do you think bred successfully on Scottish grouse moors in 2016 (where driven shooting took place – not on moors which are currently not being shot)?

Photo of hen harrier Annie, who was found shot on a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire in 2015. (Image: RSPB Scotland).


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