Poisoned Montague’s Harriers found dead in nest in western France

My name is Alexandre Villers and I’ve been involved in Montagu’s Harrier research and their conservation in western France (CEBC CNRS research centre) for quite a long time now.
Together with  Benoit, the friend who took this picture of the poisoned Montague’s Harriers, we went to that nest to trap and ring the adults. After setting up the nets, and having a weird feeling (the female wasn’t alarming, which is quite unusual), we checked the nest content and found a dead chick and female.

montagues harrier

France: Adult Montague’s Harrier and dead chick found poisoned in nest

It’s the 3rd adult female harrier I’ve found dead on the nest (for the 2 breeding seasons I was supervising)and I suspect it’s always the same scenario: the male brought back a poisoned vole to the nest.

This time, the fauna was lucky enough for the nest to be fenced (protection against harvest) which prevented further intoxications for foxes or mustelids.


Alexandre Villers holding a Montague’s Harrier for ringing

In 2 other cases, a few years ago, the whole brood of harriers plus the female were found dead in the nest. Though these cases of poisoning are apparently spatially limited, the ONCFS agents, in charge of this matter, haven’t been able to find the person(s) responsible for these deaths. They still removed several poisoned baits discovered on hay ricks.

The corpses will be tested for different pesticides, if I manage to find the money for it, and eventually I’ll be able to press charges against person unknown. I have no idea how widespread these cases of poisoning are, but I suspect they would be hardly noticed on farmlands where not that many people hike.

After making sure the male was still around and delivered prey to the nest at a normal rate, we decided to leave the chicks that were still alive in the nest (which was fenced) but helped them a bit by feeding them once per day for a week. The 2 chicks eventually fledged “normally”.
Details and approval to publish this sad story supplied by Alexandre Villers, Western France.

1 comment to Poisoned Montague’s Harriers found dead in nest in western France

  • BarbaraMc

    Is this appalling slaughter carried out where there are grouse moors, and the Hoi Poloi go out to shoot non-indigenous chicks bred for this purpose when they have barely learned to fly, as happens in the UK? If the authorities don’t take action, it’s likely they are involved with the landowners concerned; it’s amazing how persuasive a back-hander can be.
    How much do the tests cost, do you have a ‘Donate’ button ?