Tests prove that endangered birds of prey were shot and poisoned
RSPB Scotland has confirmed the slaughter of two rare and protected birds of prey.
Tests undertaken by Scottish Government scientists have proven that a pair of red kites were destroyed illegally.
The incidents took place in the north of Scotland in 2014, but have only been revealed after police inquiries concluded.
RSPB Scotland said the first victim was found last June near Beauly and was subsequently confirmed by post-mortem to have been shot.
The second red kite was found in September, five kilometres south-east of Cawdor in Nairnshire.
Whoever is responsible is bringing decent, law-abiding people in the Highlands into disrepute through their despicable actions
It was confirmed to have been illegally poisoned with a banned pesticide.
This female bird was part of a successful breeding pair which bred at Cawdor Castle last year, representing the first breeding record of red kites in Nairnshire for over 100 years.
Both of these birds had been fitted with satellite tags by RSPB Scotland as part of a wider project to follow the movements of these birds and look at factors influencing their survival.
It is doubtful whether either of the corpses of these birds would have been found if the satellite tags had not been in place.
The crimes happened shortly after the spring 2014 illegal poisoning incident that killed at least 12 red kites and four buzzards on the Black Isle near Conon Bridge.
This appalling attack on wildlife sparked national outrage and prompted a protest on the streets of Inverness.
Hunting and poisoning wiped out Scotland’s indigenous red kite population in the 19th century, but a recent reintroduction programme over the past 25 years has seen them once more take to our skies.
However, there has been resentment by members of the hunting and landowning communities.
Research by RSPB Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage published in 2010 showed that the red kite population is being severely constrained in the north of Scotland by illegal killing.
Duncan Orr-Ewing, head of species and land management for RSPB Scotland, said: “Since red kite reintroductions began in Scotland in 1989, over 100 birds have been confirmed as illegally killed, with a significant majority of the victims found poisoned. The real figure will be much higher as the finding of these satellite tagged birds demonstrates.
“The red kite is a universally popular species amongst the public and tourists, featuring highly in recent polls to find the UK’s national bird. It poses no threat to land use interests, however due to its scavenging behaviour, it is vulnerable to the indiscriminate use of illegal poison in the countryside.
“We encourage anybody with information about the use of illegal poison or other wildlife crimes to contact the police."
Bill Kidd MSP, the red kite species champion, said: “I believe that whoever is responsible for these crimes is bringing a lot of decent law-abiding people in the Highland community into undeserved disrepute through their despicable actions.
“The people of the Black Isle are to be strongly commended for their care of and interest in the red kites and other raptors in the area and I’m sure the same would happen in Nairnshire if the birds were allowed to spread there.
“I would ask if anyone knows who the perpetrators of these crimes of shooting and poisoning these magnificent birds are they should pass this information on to the police.”