'The tip of the iceberg' - report shows 23 birds of prey illegally shot or poisoned last year

'The tip of the iceberg' - report shows 23 birds of prey illegally shot or poisoned last year
The Common Buzzard. File photo.

By Dan Buckley

More than 20 birds of prey were illegally shot or poisoned in the country last year, new figures show.

However, the figures released by the National Parks and Wildlife Service are only the 'tip of the iceberg', according to the organisation Birdwatch Ireland.

In total, 23 “poison and persecution incidents” were identified in 2017. The NPWS annual report for the year reveals 16 poison incidents, six where birds of prey were shot and one incident involving collision with a wind turbine. A number of suspected and unconfirmed incidents were also recorded.

“A kestrel was found at the base of a wind turbine in West Limerick, with haemorrhaging found to its skull,” says the report by Dr Barry O’Donoghue, Head of Agri-Ecology, NPWS.

Interestingly, no wing damage was found. The full extent to which wind farm mortalities (whether through turbine or wire or fence collisions) occurs in Ireland is relatively unknown in the absence of large-scale coordination of systematic surveys involving a range of techniques and modelling.

The number of incidents in 2017 was around average in terms of the annual incidents confirmed and recorded since the NPWS began recording deaths and attacks since 2011 under what it calls the RAPTOR scheme.

Of the raptors species confirmed to have died as a result of direct human impact in 2017, the most frequent casualty was Common Buzzard (11), followed by Red Kite (3), Kestrel (1), and White-tailed Sea Eagle (1).

These figures may not go anywhere near reflecting the full figure, according to Niall Hatch of Birdwatch Ireland. While welcoming the report, he said it was regrettable Birdwatch Ireland and other NGOs like the Golden Eagle Trust and the Irish Raptor Study Group were not invited to contribute.

Mr Hatch said the NPWS figures only reflect a very small proportion of what Birdwatch Ireland believes is the real extent of illegal killings and persecution of birds of prey.

"It is important that instances of bird-of-prey killings are checked and categorised but these figures may not reflect the actual numbers. We have a good relationship with the NPWS but it should work more closely with NGOs like Birdwatch Ireland.

"It is also disappointing that there is no reference to the Garda Siochána in the report. Many of these incidences are crimes against wildlife, yet they are not recorded on the Garda PULSE system and enforcement against those responsible is very poor. There was not a single prosecution in 2017, for instance, although there was one in Waterford this year for the killing of peregrine falcons and we welcome that."

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