A red kite was found dead in a field in Wigmore, Herefordshire

RSPB Press Release.

Police and the RSPB are investigating the illegal killing of two protected wild birds of prey.

A red kite was found dead in a field in Wigmore, Herefordshire on New Years Eve 2019 by a member of the public. The RSPB and West Mercia Police were notified. When the police collected the bird, they noticed a large hole in the bird’s body.

The RSPB arranged for a post-mortem of the bird, and the results concluded that it had been shot, and that ‘shooting with a single projectile is by far the most likely cause’ of death. Witnesses also confirmed they had heard shooting in the area the day before.

Around 50 miles away, on 20 January 2020, eyewitnesses saw a buzzard being shot from a light-coloured van near Shelsley Beauchamp, Worcestershire. The bird was brought to Vale Wildlife Centre but due to an irreparable broken wing the bird had to put the bird to sleep.

All birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail.

Jenny Shelton, from the RSPB’s Investigations Unit, said:

“There’s a feeling of wonder and excitement that comes with watching birds like red kites and buzzards in the wild which everyone should have the chance to experience. England hosts one of the most significant breeding populations of red kites in the world, so we have an international responsibility to protect them as a species.

“The deliberate killing of birds of prey is a big problem in the British countryside, with shooting, trapping and poisoning the most common methods we encounter. Sadly these are not the first instances we have encountered in Herefordshire and Worcestershire in recent times. In 2017, two peregrines were poisoned in a quarry near Ludlow, leaving their three chicks orphaned, and in 2016 three buzzards were found shot in Mordiford, Honeymoor Common and Leominster. And these are only the ones we know about. If anyone has any information, please contact the police on 101. Too many people are getting away with crimes like this: your call could make all the difference.”

PC Sarah Smith, Rural Crime Officer for West Mercia Police, said:

“West Mercia Police take wildlife crime very seriously, and a thorough investigation will be conducted to bring the offenders to justice.”

If you have any information relating to either of these incidents, call West Mercia Police on 101.

If you find a wild bird of prey which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB Investigations on 01767 680551 or fill in the online form: https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/our-positions-and-campaigns/positions/wildbirdslaw/reportform.aspx

A note about red kites:

The red kite was a valued scavenger in England during the Middle Ages. They helped keep streets clean and were protected by a royal decree; killing a kite attracted capital punishment. However due to persecution and egg collecting, red kites became extinct in England in 1871. At the start of the 20th century there were only a few pairs left in Wales.

A re-introduction programme run by RSPB, Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage, with support and sponsorship from many other bodies, started in 1989 and has helped to establish red kites in several areas of England and Scotland, and their range and numbers are slowly expanding.

The UK is now estimated to host around 15% of the world population of breeding red kites, and England now hosts one of the most significant breeding populations of this species in Europe. In other parts of Europe, red kite populations have declined for a variety of reasons linked to land use changes affecting prey, as well as illegal persecution by humans.

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