Birdwatch Ireland has sharply criticised reports that buzzards are killing terriers and lambs in the southeast of the country.
A bird of prey, buzzards became extinct in this country in the late 1800s but have naturally re-populated in recent years — to the joy of ecologists and birdwatchers. However, an article in a newspaper warned that pet owners should be on “on alert” for “giant buzzards” as they had attacked terriers, cats, rabbits and hares in recent weeks.
The Tipperary Star article last week warned that the birds of prey “have taken terriers and other animals in dead swoops through mid Tipperary”. It reported that one Yorkshire terrier had been attacked but survived, only to be attacked again.
However, Birdwatch Ireland raptor conservation officer, John Lusby has “warned that there are far reaching consequences from fostering such misguided fear of birds of prey” and that “misleading” articles could once again threaten the new buzzard population.
“Buzzards prey on crows, rats and other pests. They also prey on rabbits but are incapable of killing prey larger than this. They pose no threats to the hare or dog population,” he said.
“They will feed on dead or stillborn lambs but there is no evidence of them killing or harming living lambs. This is a myth which refuses to die in some quarters and it needs to stop”.
Most other European countries have far higher buzzard populations than Ireland yet such myths do not exist, said Mr Lusby.
Illegal poisoning and shooting has long plagued birds of prey in Ireland.
Mr Lusby said: “As top predators, buzzards are excellent indicators of a healthy countryside. Buzzards help to keep numbers of crows, such as hooded crows and magpies, and rodents, in check”.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved