Birds of prey are still being killed in Northern Ireland, but many deaths go unreported, says the RSPB.

The wildlife charity today launches its latest report on animal persecution in the UK, but says only one death was reported in NI in 2021.

However, the campaign group believes the region’s raptor species are “under threat from criminals who illegally target and kill them”.

The birds, such as red kites and peregrine falcons, are being shot and poisoned, the RSPB says, with 30 confirmed incidents of raptor crime in Northern Ireland between 2016 and 2020 involving 26 birds.

RSPB NI says it has an investigating officer working with partners “to detect and apprehend raptor-related crimes in Northern Ireland”.

A spokesman added: “RSPB NI is trying to expose the extent of the persecution of birds of prey in Northern Ireland. To combat the use of raptors to kill illegally, the RSPB has appointed a dedicated investigator to work with law enforcement and other partners to detect and investigate these crimes. Together they have spent the past 12 months searching through datasets to learn more about the persecution of raptors in Northern Ireland.

“All wild birds are protected by law in Northern Ireland in terms of the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985. Unfortunately, illegal shooting, trapping, poisoning and nest destruction continue to threaten some of the country’s best-known and most endangered species. Think red kites and peregrine falcons.”

Dean Jones, RSPB NI research officer, began working with the charity in 2021 “to work with statutory authorities and other partners from the Police of Northern Ireland to the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group”.

The researcher’s work includes the recording and detection of wildlife crime incidents and is also the link for the public. The RSPB says his appointment is “an important step in identifying and combating raptor persecution in Northern Ireland”.

The RSPB’s bird crime report, released today, is expected to uncover just one confirmed incident in Northern Ireland in 2021, although the charity believes “many more will undoubtedly go unnoticed and unreported”.

The total number of confirmed cases for the UK is 108.

The spokesman added: “The only incident of raptor prosecution in Northern Ireland in 2021 reflects the low detection rate and highlights the need for greater awareness and reporting of potential crimes.

“RSPB data shows that between 2016 and 2020 there were 30 confirmed incidents in Northern Ireland involving 26 birds. Poisoning remains the predominant method, accounting for more than half of these incidents (16), followed by gunshots (11 incidents).

Mark Thomas, head of investigations UK at RSPB, said: “The addition of Dean to our UK team is already helping us to understand more about the impact of wildlife crime on some of Northern Ireland’s priority raptor species such as red kites and peregrine falcons Everyone should have the pleasure of seeing and enjoying it. This additional resource will also allow for better monitoring of hens, a species whose breeding population in Northern Ireland has been steadily declining over the last few decades.”

Dean Jones, RSPB NI investigating officer, said: “You, the conscientious public, play an important role in protecting our birds of prey. If you see a dead or dying bird of prey under suspicious circumstances, please report it to the police and to me at the RSPB. Please send an email to [email protected] and I will take your request and get back to you. If you wish to remain anonymous, you can also call the dedicated Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101. Your evidence can help us catch criminals in the wild.”

More information on what and how to report a potential bird of prey crime can be found online:

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