People in Banbridge have been warned against disturbing birds of prey during the nesting season.
The Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group (NIRSG) has cautioned that, as with many animals, birds or prey will defend their territories and breeding sites from potential danger.
A spokesperson said: “Birds of prey will ‘alarm call’ at any perceived threat that comes too close to the nest site. On rarer occasions they may dive at the threat if it persists.
“Alarm-calling is usually enough to deter the threat, but for those of us who are not familiar with the sounds of birds of prey may not realise what is happening and continue merrily on our way, getting closer and closer to the nest.
“It is rare for a bird to actually make contact but some individual birds are more aggressive, and if frequently disturbed, it may happen.”
In June last year Banbridge Cycling Club’s James Curry felt the full force of a buzzard’s talons in an attack probably aimed at protecting nearby chicks or a nest site.
The bird sank its claws into his cycling helmet while Dromore Cycling Club’s Steven Lindsay was also identified as a predator and dealt with accordingly by the buzzard.
Birds of prey in Northern Ireland are protected all year under the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985, as amended by the Wildlife and Environment Act (NI) 2011 and it is illegal to disturb them at, in, on or near their nests.
A NIRSG spokesperson said: “Regular disturbance of a nest site can result in the adults not being able to incubate their eggs efficiently, causing the chicks inside to die, or later in the season defending their nest site from disturbance can distract the adults from hunting or caring for the young and as a result the chicks in the nest may starve.
“For this reason it is illegal under the wildlife legislation to recklessly disturb ANY bird during the nesting season.
“We suggest that people stay clear of nesting areas, unless you have wildlife licence, where possible until the breeding season is over, typically around the end of July.
If you witness any bird of prey being intentionally or recklessly antagonised or disturbed you can call PSNI on ‘101’ or anonymously at Crimestoppers ‘0800 555 111’.