More Red Kites in Northern Ireland are being poisoned

Wildlife Scientists in Ireland claim criminals who poison Red Kites are getting away Scott- free as it is taking months to diagnose cases of illegal poisoning. Four red kites have been found dead this year – amounting to 30% of the breeding population in Northern Ireland.

Of the four dead birds, two were breeding males, one was a breeding female and one was a juvenile. The female was found dead in the nest where she was incubating two eggs, meaning the chicks inside also perished.

After the dead birds were sent to the Agri Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) to determine whether they had been victims of poisoning, it then took several months for the results to come back.

Toxicology results for one Kite found dead in January came back in August. Results still have not been received for another red kite found dead in April and two more found in August, making tracing those responsible almost impossible.

“The red kites are a reintroduced species and any death at all is a terrible setback for us,” senior conservation officer Michelle Hill said. “It is even more pronounced when you have such long delays in getting those results back.

“If people feel they can do something illegal and know there is very little chance of getting caught, logic would suggest that they will repeatedly do it.”

The AFBI said there are no outstanding diagnoses for cause of death of red kites and all reports have been issued to the PSNI.

The organisation said that in the light of the concerns over poisoning, AFBI has started fast-tracking diagnoses.

South Down DUP MLA Jim Wells, a member of the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group, said he has experienced similar delays after handing in a peregrine falcon for analysis after finding it dead in the Broughshane area.

Red kites could be lost from Northern Ireland as a species if there isn’t better co-operation in dealing with possible poisoning, Mr Wells added.

“If you are going to take formal action against the people responsible and prevent this from happening again, you need to know the results rapidly,” he said.

The Belfast Telegraph contacted the PSNI yesterday but nobody was available for comment.


The RSPB successfully released 80 red kites into Northern Irish skies between 2008 and 2010. The species was persecuted to extinction in Northern Ireland more than 200 years ago. The birds have become a familiar sight in the skies of South Down. The magnificently graceful bird of prey is unmistakable with its reddish-brown body, angled wings and deeply forked tail.

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