Kathy, a female hen harrier found dead with unspecified injuries on an estate near Dunoon


Press release from Police Scotland, 20 December 2017:

Police Scotland and RSPB Scotland are issuing a joint appeal for information after a young hen harrier was discovered dead with unexplained injuries on an estate near Dunoon.

“Kathy”, a female bird, was satellite tagged as a chick on the Cowal Peninsula in August this year (2017) as part of the RSPB’s EU-funded Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project.

Kathy was found dead two days later and a post-mortem examination found she had unexplained injuries.

After fledging in late August, Kathy remained in the vicinity of the nest she hatched in for the next month. RSPB Scotland staff monitoring her tracking device became concerned when data suggested she hadn’t moved on October 3.

The post-mortem results indicated that the bird had unexplained injuries which may be the result of criminality.

PC Donald Mackay from Police Scotland, said: “I appeal for anyone who knows what happened to Kathy to contact Police Scotland so that we can establish how she may have died. Although this would be an isolated incident in my area, it is concerning that a raptor may have been deliberately killed in Argyll. Hen harriers are a particularly fragile bird of prey in terms of their numbers in the UK, and Police Scotland will work with its partners to thoroughly investigate this incident and robustly deal with any person who may have been involved.”

Will Hayward, Investigations Officer for RSPB Scotland, said: “We are advised that this hen harrier has died from unexplained injuries that may be the result of criminality. If criminal cause of death is confirmed, this incident will sadly be another statistic to add to a catalogue of hen harriers that meet their end in this way. Only through the use of satellite technology are we finally getting an accurate picture of the true scale of a human persecution problem that has been denied by some parties for decades. We look forward to hearing the results of the police investigation into this hen harrier death in due course.”

Hen harriers are one of the country’s most threatened birds of prey with the latest national survey recording only 460 breeding pairs in Scotland, a drop of 27% since 2004. Anyone with information is asked to contact Police Scotland on 101 and ask to speak to a Wildlife Crime Officer.



Will Hayward, Investigations Officer for RSPB Scotland, said the case highlights a wider problem. He added: “If criminal cause of death is confirmed, this incident will sadly be another statistic to add to a catalogue of hen harriers that meet their end in this way. “Only through the use of satellite technology ..

10 comments to Kathy, a female hen harrier found dead with unspecified injuries on an estate near Dunoon

  • I personally find the statement ”unexplained injuries that may be the result of criminality” very vague and totally non scientific. Surely after an investigation spanning over 10 weeks and all the forensic technology at our disposal we should be reading a more conclusive report on how this young harrier died?

    Editor’s Comment. All this terminology is suspicious to say the least; certainly after 10 weeks an expert would know if the bird had been shot.

  • Could it be a badly fitted GPS tracker that killed it?

    That has been the case in the past with Falcons

  • Just how detrimental to the welfare of our raptors are these harness fitted GPS tracking systems? Several years back a report highlighted that this harness system used on Red Kites ”cause lesions and reduce the breeding prospects of those being tracked”. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/sep/20/tracking-equipment-birds-health

    More recently between 2013-16 in young Golden Eagles there has been recorded 3 cases of harrowing harness problems in the Angus Glens.

    The first year survival rate for Hen Harriers is extremely low at around 36% and obviously any other potential detrimental factor affecting this would surely be serious?

  • J. Coogan

    Here we we go, the chuckle brothers banging on about harnesses again. If your mates up the Angus glens didn’t knock them off at every opportunity there would be no need to GPS track them.There certainly is a detrimental factor effecting first year harriers its called LEAD SHOT.

    • Surely as a conservationist J.Coogan you should be a little concerned/sympathetic regarding the poorly designed harness problems observed with relation to young Golden Eagles in Angus? What totally amazes me is that virtually everyone is turning a blind eye to these birds plight. Begs the question how many other Golden Eagles are there out there in other regions of Scotland with similar problems having never been witnessed or recorded?
      If you are ever in the vicinity of the Angus Glens and would love to see a plethora of raptors and all the other associated moorland biodiversity found on a managed grouse moor then please look me up and I’d be more than pleased to show you around.

  • Thorbjorn Odinsberg

    I suspect that the police and RSPB know exactly how this bird died BUT do not yet want that information out in the public domain. Unexplained injuries could mean anything but they obviously think criminal activity was involved and Harness problems is as usual a complete red herring, Falcons have a very different life style, don’t give the dark side excuses they can use.

  • Trapit

    If,after two and a half months, all possible tests have been completed, and cause of death has not been ascertained,that is what the statement should read.
    The phrase”unexplained injuries that may be the result of criminality”,is meaningless. More Raptors die a natural death than are ever illegally killed.
    This bird had only been fledged a short while,it’s inexperience possibly a factor in its demise,any number of natural occurrences can cause unexplained injuries.
    Unless Police Scotland know something they have not made public?.

  • J. Coogan

    Most raptors on grouse moors don’t live long enough to die of natural causes!

  • Possibly true J.Coogan,possibly true,though as you know from another blog running this story,”Kathy” was not found on a grouse moor.

    However,that does not diminish the fact that she may have been killed illegally,but without all the facts, and a knowledge of the area, we can only make uninformed guesses.

    Over a long period, I have personally known of three adult Goshawks found dead under electric cables, all showing different injuries that could have been attributed to other causes.
    Indeed, one of these was investigated as having suffered injuries “consistent with those inflicted by a spring- trap”,and, I presume, is still an on going case three and a half years later.

    I have also seen an immature Goshawk, and a Tawny owl, temporarily stunned by flying into obstacles whilst hunting,the gos recovered before I was able to jump on it!,which would have been one to remember.

    So,I would be happier if full details of these cases could be released sooner,with reliable post-mortem results, before falling back on the appealing for witnesses route,which just assumes criminality.

    Some are,( the gos case I mention was ” live” in just over a month) but not enough,however there are greater priorities for the police aren’t there?