THE RSPB is appealing for information after the death of another red kite in Northern Ireland.
The bird was discovered in the Castlewellan area last Wednesday (14 August) and is the fourth that has been found dead this year.
The conservation charity is asking the public for help in uncovering the cause of the deaths, which represent 30 per cent of the breeding red kite population in the province.
The body of the bird that died last week has been submitted to the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute for a post-mortem. However, it is strongly suspected that it, and the other birds, fell victim to poison.
Adam McClure, Red Kite Officer for the RSPB, said: “All birds of prey are protected under the law, but unfortunately this doesn’t always mean that they are safe from poison.
“In some cases, they are deliberately targeted as some people incorrectly see them as a threat to their live stock or game birds.
“They may also ingest the poison by eating dead mice or rats that have been killed by rodenticides.
“We do not know what caused the deaths of these four birds as yet and are eagerly awaiting the post-mortem results dating back as far as January. But we suspect that they did not die of natural causes.”
Red kites were once common in Ireland but were persecuted to extinction in the eighteenth century. In 2008 the RSPB began a reintroduction project that has been successful in encouraging the birds to breed here.
They have since become a rare, but welcome, sighting over the skies of County Down.
With only ten breeding pairs, every death is a blow and may have serious consequences for the fragile population here in Northern Ireland.
Of the four deceased animals, two were breeding males, one was a breeding female and one was a juvenile. Sadly, the female was found dead in the nest where she was incubating two eggs, meaning the chicks inside also perished.
“Alongside landowners in south Down, our funders NIE and RES and local councils Newry and Mourne, Down and Banbridge through Ulster Wildlife Landfill funding, we have worked hard to create a home for red kites in Northern Ireland over the last five years so it is disappointing when we lose any of them, even more so in circumstances like this,” Adam added.
Emma Meredith, PSNI wildlife liaison officer, said: “Police take wildlife crime seriously and if it is found that there is a breach in the legislation then they will investigate.
“Currently police have requested tests on the birds reported to identify the cause of death.
“Anyone who suspects a crime and/or has information about the deaths of the birds is asked to contact the Police Service of Northern Ireland on 0845 600 8000 or anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”
Information on the safe use of rodenticides is available by calling RSPB NI on 028 9049 1547.