RSPB Northern Ireland has said its ‘worst fears have been confirmed’ after tests proved a red kite found dead in Katesbridge was deliberately shot.
The female bird was discovered near Katesbridge on May 20 and it was recovered by the PSNI and the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group.
The death is a real blow to the small population of this bird of prey in Northern Ireland.
The bird which was found shot was born in Wales in 2010 and was part of the re-introduction scheme’s final release.
It was also ‘adopted’ by Ballyclare High School in 2011 and given the name Fawkes.
Teacher Dr Adrian Witherow said, “We are extremely disappointed about what has happened to Fawkes. RSPB NI has offered us the chance to adopt a chick born this year, which will be doing to show our ongoing support for the project.”
The bird was found near a nest site usually occupied by a male and female known as Black K and Black M. Worryingly, they have not been seen in recent months and their nest, which was freshly lined in preparation for breeding, has not been active for weeks.
Claire Barnett from RSPB NI said: “To lose any of our small red kite population is a real setback but to find out that someone deliberately killed this magnificent bird of prey is beyond belief.
“We have done a lot of work to raise awareness about these birds. While they are the largest bird of prey to nest in Northern Ireland, kites are opportunistic scavengers, feeding mostly on worms and small dead animals and aren’t a threat to livestock or people. Sadly, it’s clear that a minority of people still think they don’t have a place in our skies.”
Claire added: “Like all wild birds, red kites are protected by the law and it is an offence to injure or kill one. Red kites are so vulnerable that they are listed as ‘A1’ species, meaning their nests are protected all year round and crimes against them are eligible for a higher penalty.
“I would appeal for anyone with information about this incident to report it to the police on 101.”