Highlands & Islands

Report on poisoned birds of prey 'depressing', RSPB says

Red kite
Image caption Four red kites were among birds of prey poisoned last year

RSPB Scotland has renewed its call for landowners and their staff in some parts of Scotland to do more to protect raptors from being killed illegally.

Director Stuart Housden said "intolerance" had been shown to the birds in parts of the eastern and central Highlands and southern uplands.

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said illegal killing was not tolerated.

The SGA added that landowners and employees had worked hard to reduce incidents of bird of prey abuse.

In the RSPB's newly-published report, The illegal killing of birds of prey in Scotland in 2011, Mr Housden praised land managers' efforts to conserve species of birds such as lapwing and capercaillie.

But he said birds of prey continued to be persecuted. Fewer raptors were found poisoned in Scotland in 2011 than recorded in the previous year's RSPB report.

Tests confirmed 20 raptors, including a golden eagle, seven buzzards and four red kites, were poisoned in 2011.

In 2010, 29 birds were found killed in this way according to the RSPB.

But Mr Housden said potentially more birds were killed but not found. He said 2011's toll still made for "depressing reading".

As well as the poisonings, there were 16 incidents where birds were killed illegally by other means.

Buzzards were found dead in crow traps in Perthshire, a peregrine was shot near Ballater and a short-eared owl was shot in Strathdon, both in Aberdeenshire.

A goshawk nest near Peebles in the Borders was also recorded to have been shot at.

'Highest ever'

In the report, Mr Housden said many landowners and their employees acted responsibly and helped in efforts to conserve species such as lapwing, corncrakes and capercaillie.

However, he added: "The fact that the illegal killing of birds of prey in Scotland has continued is inescapable.

"What is also clear is that had it not been for the development of new satellite-based technology, some of these victims would never have been found."

SGA chairman Alex Hogg said the figures in the RSPB report were similar to Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture statistics, that were published in March and September this year.

He said 2011 had seen an increased number of investigations that had found fewer cases of abuse, but had instead uncovered deaths caused by birds colliding with power lines and vehicles.

Mr Hogg said: "This is at a time when raptor numbers are, in many cases, the highest ever recorded and more and more people are losing increasing number of livestock to birds of prey, putting jobs and families at risk in a difficult time for the Scottish economy.

"Given that background, partners were rightly encouraged that the huge amount of work that has been done to educate and raise awareness, is working."

He added: "The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has an unequivocal stance against the abuse of birds of prey and will continue to work hard, as it has done, to keep bringing these figures down."

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