A red kite found dead in County Down had been deliberately shot RSPB Northern Ireland has confirmed. The female bird was discovered near Katesbridge on 20 May and it was recovered by the PSNI and the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group.
Red kites were persecuted to extinction more than 200 years ago. Back in 2008 RSPB NI joined forces with the Welsh Kite Trust and the Golden Eagle Trust to reintroduce the species to Northern Ireland’s skies.
The current population is thought to stand at around 14 breeding pairs and, although no further releases are planned, the charity is continuing to monitor the population. It’s thought the population will only reach a sustainable level once around 50 pairs are established.
The bird which was found shot was born in Wales in 2010 and was part of the re-introduction scheme’s final release.
It was also ‘adopted’ by Ballyclare High School in 2011 and given the name Fawkes. Teacher Dr Adrian Witherow said: “We are extremely disappointed about what has happened to Fawkes. Both the staff and pupils at Ballyclare High School were fully behind the red kite re-introduction scheme and it is a real shame that the bird which we have followed for a number of years has been deliberately targeted.”
The bird was found near a nest site usually occupied by a male and female known as Black K and Black M. Worryingly, they have not been seen in recent months and their nest, which was freshly lined in preparation for breeding, has not been active for weeks.