Poisoning incidents has been identified as the main cause of cause of casualty in native Irish birds of prey, accounting for 71.5% of cases involving illegal acts, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has said.

A total of 338 incidents impacting birds of prey were confirmed between 2007 and 2019. A wide range of causes have been identified, including poisoning, persecution and collisions involving fences, roads and turbines.

All regularly breeding native Irish raptor species were confirmed to have suffered some form of poisoning, persecution or other direct non-habitat-related cause of injury or mortality.

Eye opener

Commenting, Minister of State Malcolm Noonan said: “These incidents, particularly the deliberate persecution of our native raptors, are an abhorrence to us all and should be condemned.

“The incident involving the poisoning of 23 Buzzards in west Cork in early 2020 was an eye opener for many, but this comprehensive report shows that poisoning and persecution incidents are happening annually.

The birds of prey recorded as most frequently impacted were common Buzzard, Red Kite, Barn Owl, Peregrine Falcon, White-tailed Sea Eagle, Hen Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Long-Eared Owl, Golden Eagle, Merlin and Short-Eared Owl.

Incidents to light

Head of agri ecology with the NPWS Dr Barry O’Donoghue said: “Birds of prey are indicators of the health of our ecosystems and countryside, whether a Barn Owl hunting a Hay Meadow at night or a Hen Harrier gliding across a moorland.

“The help of the public has been central in bringing these incidents to light and for highlighting the support that our native birds of prey need.”

There has been notable clusters of incidents, and particular risk periods, namely springtime for misuse of poison incidents and late summer, autumn and winter for shooting incidents.

Read more

Farmers praised as endangered Curlews fledge in Monaghan

NPWS investigate death of protected species

Sailing to salvation: curlews given fighting chance on Lough Erne