The RSPB is advocating for stricter regulations concerning prohibited pesticides in response to its annual Birdcrime report.
The report disclosed that in 2022, four peregrine falcons and a red kite fell victim to poisoning in Northern Ireland. These birds of prey succumbed to ingesting bait tainted with illegal pesticides.
The grim trend continued as two rare white-tailed eagles, discovered lifeless in County Antrim in 2023, also fell prey to poisoning by consuming bait laced with a pesticide licensed only for indoor use—a substance frequently associated with incidents involving raptors.
Red kites have faced illegal poisoning since 2009, with a total of 13 recorded cases. The white-tailed eagles, once persecuted to extinction, had been successfully reintroduced into Northern Ireland’s skies. However, concerns are mounting that these poisonings might impede the population’s recovery to a sustainable level.
Gregory Woulahan, the RSPB’s director of operations in Northern Ireland, has urged the Department of Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs to implement a poisons amnesty. This initiative would allow individuals to anonymously surrender any stockpile of illegal or expired pesticides.
“The continued use of banned pesticides in Northern Ireland’s countryside is not only a criminal act but it is also dangerous,” he said.
“The appalling incident at Glenwherry in the Antrim Hills, where two white-tailed eagles were killed after consuming poisoned bait, brought into focus the impact these chemicals can have, not only on birds, but potentially pets, livestock or even people who inadvertently come into contact with them.”
The RSPB is collaborating with the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group, endorsing their petition, signed by over 40,000 supporters, which advocates for making possession of pesticides containing specific ingredients a criminal offence.
The RSPB further cautions that the ongoing bird flu outbreak could lead to oversight in identifying criminal acts, as no post-mortem examinations are conducted when a dead bird tests positive for the virus.
Members of the public are encouraged to report dead or injured birds of prey either through online channels or by calling the police.
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