Hundreds of raptors illegally killed since 1994, says RSPB


Image copyright RSPB Scotland

A golden eagle that was found poisoned in Sutherland in 2010

A 20-year review of the illegal killing of birds of prey in Scotland shows 779 raptors died between 1994 and 2014, according to RSPB Scotland.

The charity said a “significant majority” of the killings took place in areas associated with game shooting.

Environment Minister Aileen McLeod said the report was “uncomfortable reading” but added that wildlife crime was being tackled.

The Scottish Moorland Group said the number of illegal deaths was declining.

It added that owners and managers of land used for shooting game birds did not tolerate the illegal killing of birds of prey.

Cats and dogs

RSPB Scotland’s review records 468 birds of prey being poisoned, 173 shot and 76 caught in illegal traps. The figures include 104 red kites, 37 golden eagles, 30 hen harriers, 16 goshawks and 10 white-tailed sea eagles.

There were also seven attempted shootings, according to the report.

RSPB Scotland also said that 14 cats and 14 dogs died after eating poison left for birds.

Red Kite Flying
Red kites were the most persecuted species, according to the review

Golden Eagle Head-1

Image courtesy of Terry Pickford

Thirty-seven golden eagles were recorded as having been killed illegally

The RSPB said the Scottish government and Police Scotland had strived to tackle wildlife crime, but called for stricter controls on shooting estates, including a review of game bird licensing systems.

Stuart Housden, director of RSPB Scotland, said: “We recognise that many landowners and their staff have helped with positive conservation efforts for birds of prey, particularly with reintroduction programmes for white-tailed eagles and red kites, and that the majority operate legitimate shooting businesses.

“But there are still far too many who do not act responsibly, and there will be no improvement in the conservation status of raptors until all land management is carried out wholly within the law.”

Mr Housden said the review did suggest a decline in illegal killings in lowland areas.

‘Striking fact’

Environment Minister Dr McLeod said work was being done to tackle illegal killings of wildlife.

She said: “There is no doubt that the figures in this report make for uncomfortable reading, but we have made progress in recent years with the new vicarious liability provisions, the publication of the report from the Wildlife Crime Penalties Review Group, new measures implementing restrictions on the use of general licences and earlier this year the Scottish government funded pesticide disposal scheme that removed over 700kg of illegally-held poisons in Scotland.”

She added: “I have noted that the RSPB are calling for the Scottish government funded review into game licensing in other countries to be commenced and I can confirm that tenders to carry out this important research were invited on 11 December.”

The Scottish Moorland Group, which is part of landowners’ body Scottish Land and Estates, said its condemnation of wildlife crime was “unequivocal”.

Director Tim Baynes said: “The most striking fact about bird of prey deaths in Scotland is that they declined over the last 20 years and have fallen dramatically over the last five years in particular.

“This substantial drop in cases has been recorded in official statistics produced by the Scottish government.

“Only yesterday, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association produced a report showing that golden eagles were nesting on 58 different sites where grouse shooting takes place and the number of eagles is rising.

“Last month, there was further evidence produced in a raft of wildlife reports which showed that 81 different species of birds were thriving on shooting estates – something RSPB is reluctant to highlight.”

He added: “We are pleased, however, that RSPB Scotland has made in its report some acknowledgement of the positive role landowners are playing in leading the efforts on bird of prey conservation.”

4 comments to Hundreds of raptors illegally killed since 1994, says RSPB

  • We recognise that many landowners and their staff have helped with positive conservation efforts for birds of prey – Stuart Houston seems to suggest most estates are good when Redpath claims that majority of Red Grouse moors are bad Historically he claimed 98% were still killing birds of prey after the first Langholm project in the 1990s so has that risen to 99%! The great Derek Ratcliffe was told even Langholm was killing 300 BOPs a year mostly Short eared Owls and Sparrowhawks [ along with Hen Harriers, Goshawks and Golden Eagles!] which made Ian Newton’s work on Sparrowhawks mainly on 1st year birds! Remember Avery [2015]claims without the persecution of BOPs makes driven Red Grouse impossible.

  • nirofo

    Yes the grouse shooting estates, those monocultured moorland grouse factories, the scourge of legally protected wildlife and the moorland environment throughout the UK, owned and run by some of the UK’s top arrogant people, throwbacks to the Victorian era and in denial of any wrong doing. Unfortunately for them the digital age is with us and it brings with it the opportunity to collect and transmit iover the internet and other media all sorts of photos, films, various types of data and conversations. Social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Utube are ready made outlets for all this information which can be transmitted almost as soon as it is gathered. This is now becoming a problem for the criminal shooting estates and will become even more so as it is harder and harder for them to hide their dirty linen from prying eyes. It’s only a matter of time before some high up influential shooting estate owner and his gamekeeper is caught redhanded in the criminal act of raptor persecution and the whole sordid thing broadcast live for all to see before “anyone” has the oppotunity to make any evidence disappear. I for one hope I have the oppotunity to do this and will take great pleasure in doing so, I know many of my colleagues are of the same opinion and are constantly watching out for it. Time to ban driven grouse shooting now.

  • The biggest killers of golden eagles in Scotland is windfarms they have killed thousands a round the world why dont the RSPB Tell us the numbers they kill in Scotland, years ago sheep farmers killed golden eagles.Its not always gamekeepers,The RSPB Have received a lot of money from windfarms,

  • the last five years bird of prey crime as gone down in the the uk why go back 20 years. thousands of captive bred birds of prey have been lost and not claimed back when reported found goshawks harris hawks little owls and hybrid peregrines. the ones that are being lost every week are breeding a lot do die.Some people who breed birds of prey dont keep records of who they sold them to. people are mass producing them for money. on top of this falconers get licences to hawk red listed species. one breeder i read about who bred peregrines got 70.000 of M.O.D.because he had a bad hatch because of low flying jets in Wales.