Harriet, the young female hen harrier, had been followed by thousands of people online as part of a satellite tracking project run by the NPWS and local community group IRD Duhallow.
Her progress was tracked at henharrierireland.blogspot.ie and the site’s last update reported a sighting of her in Kerry before Christmas.
“She looked fine and healthy. It was an absolute joy to see her in the flesh once again,” it said.
Dr Barry O’Donoghue of the NPWS, who oversaw the tracking project, said the deliberate killing of a protected species, such as the hen harrier, is a serious offence under the Wildlife Act.
“Through the satellite tracking programme thousands of people were given an insight into the life of this bird and her progress was followed from Kerry to the Wicklow Mountains.
“The tracking system showed that the bird visited Meath, Louth, Monaghan and Armagh and rested by the shores of Lough Neagh, before making a long-distance journey all the way to the Atlantic cliffs of South Co Cork,” he said.
“The bird stayed there for most of her first winter with a number of other harriers. From these older birds, she would have learned of good hunting places and safe places to spend each night. In late 2014 she returned to South Kerry, back to the very site where she was born. It seems likely she might have returned to breed there this summer, but unfortunately her life has been cut short.”
A decline in hill farming, coupled with an increase in forestry, has been linked to a decline in Hen Harriers in recent years. A person found guiltyof shooting a hen harrier can face fines of up to €100,000 or a prison sentence of up to two years.