Scottish Pigeon Fancier admits shooting dead Holyrood falcon

A pensioner shot dead one of the Scottish Parliament’s highly trained fleet of guard falcons because it was “going for his pigeons”. Andrew Hutchison, 67, then drove off in his car with the body of the falcon after its handlers traced a signal from a satellite tagging device back to his garden.

The two-year-old bird, a peregrine/gyrfalcon hybrid called Naph, was one of 25 birds of prey used to keep feral pigeons away from the roof of the parliament building at Holyrood in Edinburgh.

The falcon purchase price untrained was £3500 to buy. The falcon was then trained to scare pigeons away from the roof of the building without killing them, Dunfermline Sheriff Court was told.

Hutchison, of Tinian Crescent, Newmills, Fife, was found guilty of maliciously shooting and killing a working falcon at the end of a four-hour summary trial before Sheriff Craig McSherry.

Hutchinson was also convicted of removing the body of the bird from his garden, separating it from its radio transmitter and thereafter disposing of its body and the transmitter in an attempt to avoid prosecution, with intent to pervert the course of justice.

Hutchison had denied all the charges. In his defence he told procurator fiscal-depute Tracey Plant, prosecuting: “They’re all telling lies. It’s a witches’ coven.”

Naph was last seen alive on April 3 this year in a tree above the garden of Mr Hutchison, who keeps homing pigeons in Torryburn, Fife.

He was being exercised on his day off at a football complex when a sudden gust of wind carried him away from his minders. They followed a transmitter signal being sent by a tag on his leg which took them to Mr Hutchison’s door.

Giving evidence, falconer Ryan Dryburgh, a pest control technician with NBS Bird and Pest Solutions, said: “I got my receiver out and got a great signal coming from Mr Hutchinson’s garden.

“I waited, then I shouted for the bird, and Mr Hutchison appeared. I asked him if I could come into his garden as I had a very strong signal coming from his back garden. It was showed the bird more than six feet away from me.

“When Mr Hutchison realised the signal was coming from his garden, he said, ‘I shot your bird.'”

Mr Dryburgh said Mr Hutchison refused to let him into his garden. Shortly afterwards he came out of the house carrying a black bin bag and drove away with it in his car.

The bird’s handlers tried unsuccessfully to follow Mr Hutchison. They later followed the transmitter signal to a burn four miles away in Oakley, Fife, where they found the transmitter, one of the bird’s legs and some other equipment. The bird’s body was never found.

Mr Dryburgh said the only way of removing the transmitter from the bird would have been to pull the bird’s leg off.

A friend of Mr Dryburgh, Mark Bonham, who was with the falconers when Naph disappeared, said Mr Hutchison seemed “all shook up” when the handlers went to ask for their bird back.

He said: “I think he knew what he had done. We asked him why he shot it, and he said it was going for his pigeons.”

Sheriff McSherry deferred sentence for background reports until January 18th.

19 comments to Scottish Pigeon Fancier admits shooting dead Holyrood falcon

  • paul williams

    £3500 paid for an untrained Falcon + the cost of training. We then add the cost to replace the falcon lost, at least another £3500 plus training the second bird. I would estimate a final conservative bill of £15,000. I will watch this posting to see if the punishment fits this horrendous wildlife crime here.

    • Jeff Lendrum

      £3500 paid by who for a Gyr/Peregrine hybrid??!!! Your information and prices are flights of fiction, trust me.

  • Ian Brown

    Surely this bird isn’t a wild bird? It is a hybrid – a cross between 2 birds which don’t mate naturally – then reared in captivity – and was outwith the handler’s control when it landed in a private garden.

    This falcon was kept for a specific purpose, to hunt pigeons. It was trained to ‘chase’ pigeons, and landed in a man’s garden who just happened to keep them. He said it was going for his pigeons. The bird’s background suggests the man was telling the truth, and his killing of it was humane and done to protect his own birds.

    In my opinion the pigeon fancier was perfectly within his rights to shoot the bird.

    Editor’s Comment. The pigion fancier had no right to destroy/kill another persons falcon, irrespective of if it was or was not going for the man’s pigeons. There is case law to support the falconer claim for damages here.

  • john o'neil

    If a dog enters a farmers land and worries his sheep..horrendous site,the farmer is perfectly within his rights to shoot the dog.pigeons registered as a flock(domestic or otherwise),are therefore afforded the same rights..exercising..a sudden gust..they knew there were racing pigeons in the vicinity,this bird is not a wild bird,it is a hybrid and i feel strongly that it was a deliberate attack on the fanciers pigeons..these people who hunt outside the vicinity of where they are supposed tobe.The matter should be investigated..y not exercise the bird where it was supposed to be,,around the scottish parliament..lame excuses from ppl who support blood sports n creulty to animals..the fancier should be given a conditional discharge.

  • seamus ward

    this cross breed, was in the guys property obviously to attack HIS belonging so for me he was within his right to protect his birds by any means.

  • Derek Smith

    This falcon was trained for Holyrood! then why was in a different area being trained. Why are the government wasting the tax payers money £3,500 x 25 birds £87,500 plus trainers wages on keeping pigeons away from parliament, this is an absolute joke. As for being brought to justice for killing a hybrid falcon that is trained to kill, as that is what birds of prey do! the man was protecting his pets or property, it was not a wild falcon it was a trained one that was out of control as it wouldn’t do what its trainers told it. A gust of wind i don’t think so just an excuse as it was chasing pigeons in which this man could have paid thousands of pounds for not a wild pigeon at Holyrood which is in Edinburgh not Dunfermline about 40 miles away. Why doesn’t the courts try to punish real criminals…

  • Jim

    If this bird was in the gentlemans garden and also attacking his birds surely he is within his rights to rremove it to protect his birds. It is legal to trap a cat if it comes into your garden and causes a nuisance. It is legal for farmers to shoot dogs that worry his sheep. This was not a wild, native bird of prey. It was a bird that was supposedly trained to do a particular job and the handlers were not capable of controling it. Maybe they should be prosecuted????

  • Andrew Kyle

    There is a poor state of affairs. The guy should have every right to protect his birds which cost thousands of pounds. These trainers should be sacked for not having their bird under control and losing company property through incompetance.
    As for the Scottish Parliament, there are other effective methods of controlling the wild pigeons. Why spend the money they are spending to hire this company to scare the wild pigeons. That will achieve nothing. The wild pigeons will get over their scare and come back again, thus continually costing money. They could be using spikes or some other method to keep them off their building. They could also eradicate them completely, however this would probably be unacceptable to people with no understanding of the problem.

  • john

    Thought it was against the law to discharge a firearm in a public place and also the person in question would not have known it was a hybrid falcon so he should not be shooting at ANY birds of prey….. Maybe he will lose his licence if he possess one for the discharge of the gun??????????

    Editorial Comment: As far as we know the falcon was just sitting in a tree when it was shot.

  • Tom

    This method of removing feral pigeons cannot be cost effective,I would imagine a young lad with a dustbin lid a few pieces of grain and a length of string would do more damage to the feral population than falcons. This is without doubt a case of “jobs for the boys”. As for the senior citizen accused of killing the falcon, Good for him, the day a man is prosecuted for protecting his pets is a sad day indeed, Holyrood,Shame on you.

  • Brian

    Why is the Editorial Comment only being used when someone is with the attitude what he done was wrong?

    I believe the man is within his rights to do what he did as he was protecting! Also why is the heading of the page Raptor Politics
    Raptor Politics

    Are England’s birds of prey really protected by law?

    This happened in Scotland??

  • paul williams

    Sitting in a tree, isn’t that what birds do??? Or does sitting in a tree mean you are allowed to shoot it?

  • Circus maximus

    It would seem that the firearms laws will deal with this case….after all a young lad with a dustbin lid could have scared the falcon away. As for the parliament pigeons…the best people skilled in the art of pigeon disposal are pigeon fanciers they kill thousands to keep the few. Maybe they should given a shot at the task……or maybe they would be harder to train than a falcon?

  • nirofo

    Did the guy show anybody any injured or dead pigeons to prove that the falcon had attacked them, I see no mention of it. Perhaps the bird was sat in the tree working out it’s best line of attack when it was illegally shot by a firearm unlawfully discharged in a public place. I see no mention of any pigeons actually being flown at the time of the shooting, perhaps he shot the bird as it was sat in the tree waiting for them to be released.

  • che

    What type of gun was used in this scenario and was it licensed or not ???

  • Ian Brown

    Surely if there had been any question of infringement of the Wildlife Act or the Firearms Act, the man would have been charged with that too. Accusations such as those being levelled here in my opinion have seek to cloud the Issue.

    And whether you like it or not, “The Big Issue” here has nothing to do with Wildlife or Firearms. It is quite simply one of property, and the destruction of another person’s property to prevent the destruction of your own. And since the Case lasted 4 hours, I think it was anything but clear cut.

  • Derek Smith

    editors comment as far as we know etc etc… you don’t know! Who is telling the truth??? But if the hybrid falcon is for ferral pigeons at Holyrood why was it in Dunfermline and why does it need 25 of them?? a pure waste of tax payers money!!!!!Also they are trying to prosecute a man on wild bird charges, this bird is not wild it is trained or was supposed to be trained which is clear it wasn’t or it wouldn’t have escaped from it trainer… If he had trained it properly there wouldn’t have been a problem simples..

    Editors Comment. There is no way the courts can prosecute anyone under the Wildlife & Countryside Act for killing a hybrid falcon. We also agree that the same rule of law would apply for any indiginous bird of prey which had been trained and retained in captivity. A trained peregrine for example is not classified as a wild bird. We hope this clarification has been of some use.

  • nirofo

    So if it is not a wild bird then it is either domesticated livestock or somebody’s pet. It is illegal to shoot or mistreat a domesticated animal or bird under The Animal Welfare Act, were the SSPCA involved I wonder, if not why not ???

    Editor’s comment: We are given to understand where a trained bird of prey had been shot/destroyed by a third party the prosecution of the person responsible was (a) a private prosecution. (b) recovery of financial losses following the criminal destruction of a person’s property.