July 2009

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | UK Bird News | Bird News for United Kingdom 2009 |  July 2009

Peregrines in 2009  shot, poisoned and trapped

Peregrines in 2009 – shot, poisoned and trapped

This year looks like being one of the worst on record for crimes against peregrines.
The RSPB have been flooded with reports of birds being poisoned, trapped and shot and of their chicks being taken from the nest.
Reported incidents already number more than 50 for the year, with more waiting to be processed. There were 79 incidents reported for the whole of 2007.As a result, The RSPB are urging the Government to add peregrines to its list of priority species for wildlife crime enforcement.

Among the incidents reported to the RSPB this year are:

Shooting: A dead peregrine was found peppered with shot in the Forest of Dean. An x-ray revealed the bird, a seven-year-old female, had been blasted at close range with a shotgun.

Poisoning: A female peregrine and her chick were found dead on their nest near Sunderland next to the body of a pigeon, which police suspect was poisoned bait used to kill the peregrine family. Samples have been sent for testing.

In Walsall, a racing pigeon was found with a pill capsule taped to its leg. A tip-off that some pigeon fanciers in the area were targeting peregrines led to the capsule being sent for tests. Results showed it had been filled with the banned pesticide Aldicarb.

Since April, three pigeons have been found tethered to the ground near a peregrine site in Cumbria. It is suspected the birds had been laced with poison in an attempt to kill the peregrines. Samples have been sent for testing.

Trapping: A peregrine crash landed in a back garden near Litchfield in Staffordshire with its leg caught in a spring trap. It later died of its injuries. A search of nearby quarries by RSPB officers found three more traps on a ledge used by peregrines.

Nest robberies: All five chicks were stolen from a peregrine nest site near Mansfield within a week of them hatching. It is the fourth year in a row the nest has failed.

Mark Thomas, RSPB Investigations Officer, said: “It has been a terrible year. One of the worst I can remember. In the last few weeks, barely a day has gone by without a call about peregrine persecution.

“We have had multiple reports of attempts to target peregrines with poisoned baits and lethal traps and now we have this bird confirmed shot.

“These crimes are cruel, needless and selfish. That they happen at all in the 21st Century is a disgrace. Peregrines have taken 30 years to recover from the devastating effects of pesticide poisoning and still we find them targeted by people who hold a grudge against them.

“This has included rogue elements within the pigeon racing and game shooting communities, who blame them for the loss of their birds. Then there are those crooked individuals intent on taking eggs and chicks for falconry.

"The Government recently made the persecution of birds of prey one of the UK’s wildlife crime priorities, with emphasis on five key species. We believe peregrines should now be added to that list.

“We urgently need the Government to place peregrines on the list of priority species for wildlife crime enforcement and make sure captive birds are properly registered.

“These crimes are committed by a selfish minority and are completely unacceptable. We need the public to support the RSPB’s campaign to end the illegal killing of birds of prey.”

1. Peregrines were reduced to 360 pairs in Britain by 1963, largely owing to organochlorine poisoning from pesticides such as DDT. Following the restriction of organochlorines and enhanced protection efforts, their numbers are now at their highest for at least 50 years, with over 1,400 pairs.

However, numbers have not recovered in some areas, such as eastern Yorkshire, while in north Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern Wales there have been declines over the last decade. Human persecution, environmental pollutants and, possibly, declines in the abundance of their prey, may be restricting the peregrine population.

Peregrines continue to be persecuted, with recent estimates made that 27% of nests in south-east Scotland, 24% of nests in north-east Scotland and over 10% of examined ranges in Cumbria were subject to interference or killing.

Individuals involved with pigeon fancying are believed to be responsible for the failure of some nests, particularly in South Wales and Northern Ireland. This is despite several separate studies showing that birds of prey are responsible for only a small proportion of racing pigeon losses relative to other factors such as straying, exhaustion and collisions.

2. Peregrines are the fastest creatures on the planet, diving on their prey in mid-air at speeds of more than 100 miles per hour. The impact alone is enough to ensure the bird’s prey is often killed instantly.

3. In February, MP Huw Irranca-Davies, Minister for the Environment, announced the six wildlife crime priorities for the UK. This included Bird of prey persecution with emphasis on five species – golden eagle, white-tailed eagle, goshawk, hen harrier and red kite. The RSPB believe that the peregrine falcon should also be included on this priority list. This species has a long history of persecution and events in 2009 emphasize how serious problems remain for this spectacular bird.

4. Peregrines are specially protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Anyone killing, injuring, trapping, taking or disturbing one can face a fine of up to £5,000 or up to 6 months in prison or both.

5. Last year the RSPB launched a campaign to stamp out the illegal killing of birds of prey. Every year, birds such as peregrines, golden eagles, hen harriers, goshawks, buzzards and red kites, are shot, poisoned and have their nests and eggs destroyed, despite being protected by law. If you would like to support the campaign, please visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdsofprey

If you have information about any crime against birds of prey you can call the RSPB in confidence on 0845 466 3636.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Bird news for Britain / Rest of the World | UK Bird News | Bird News for United Kingdom 2009 |  July 2009

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