Pigeon fanciers reject falcon poisoning allegations

Image caption, Most of a family of peregrine falcons were killed in a poisoning incident in July

Pigeon fanciers in Londonderry have voiced their anger after they were blamed for poisoning peregrine falcons.

All but one of a family of the birds died after an incident at their nesting site in Claudy in July.

The Raptor Study Group claimed "rogue elements" in the north-west believed the birds were preying on their racing pigeons.

The Londonderry Racing Pigeon Society disputed the claim that pigeon fanciers were involved.

The society's Martin Gallagher said that huge numbers of racing pigeons were taken out by peregrine falcons, but there was no evidence that people involved in pigeon fancying had targeted falcons.

Earlier, Brendan Dunlop of the Raptor Study Group said he believed that someone had deliberately baited a pigeon which had been found dead near a young chick, also found dead.

"What they do is they will cover this bird with poison, remove the feathers from the back of its neck and will apply the poison to it, and they will either clip one of its wings or break one of its wings and put it into the quarry for the peregrines," he said.

"When it sees the peregrines it panics and it can't fly away and it's an easy target for the peregrines."

He said that this tactic would wipe out a whole family of birds because the dead pigeon would be taken by the adult to the nest to feed to the chicks.

"Unfortunately there is a rogue element within certain factions in the north-west who target these birds because they feel that they prey on their racing pigeons."