The RSPB is appealing to the public for information regarding the illegal shooting of a protected bird of prey.
The buzzard was taken to a vets but sadly had to be euthanised due to its injuries
On 10 October 2020, members of the public out walking stopped to watch a buzzard in flight, on land adjoining the south-west boundary of the RSPB’s Northward Hill reserve near High Halstow. One of them started filming it on a mobile phone when they suddenly heard a loud shot, and the bird crumpled and fell from the sky before their eyes.
The witnesses called the police on 101. Kent Police and the RSPB conducted a search of the area, but the body could not be found. However, a few days later, on 19 October, a birdwatcher reported seeing a buzzard with a broken wing close to where the buzzard had fallen. RSPB reserve staff set out and discovered a badly injured buzzard on the ground. It was rushed to a local vet but the bird couldn’t be saved and had to be humanely euthanised.
An x-ray of the body revealed that the bird had four pieces of shot lodged in its wing, shoulder and leg. The injury to the wing, which had caused the break, was consistent with the timing of the recent witnessed shooting. However, three of the pellets were older, indicating that the bird had been shot before on an earlier occasion.
Police have spoken with a man in connection with the incident.
All birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To intentionally kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail. Yet according to the RSPB’s recent Birdcrime report, there were 85 confirmed incidents of bird of prey persecution in the UK in 2019 – with many more likely to have gone undetected. More buzzards were the object of persecution in 2019 than any other raptor species.
The witness, who does not wish to be named, said:
“Northwood is a really special place for my family. We had just lost a loved one, so my dad suggested we take a walk to clear our heads. We were watching a buzzard flying together with another bird of prey, and I quickly got my phone out and started filming it. It was a beautiful sight. Then suddenly we heard a crack and the buzzard crumpled and fell to the ground. It was a feeling of utter shock; we couldn’t believe what we’d just seen. My sister was in floods of tears, we were just so shaken. It was not what we’d envisaged for our walk together. One moment we were watching something so alive, then the next a human had needlessly and senselessly taken it away – it felt like such a horrific waste.”
Mark Thomas, RSPB Head of Investigations, said: “Nature has the power to lift our spirits, never more so than in these difficult times. No-one should have to witness wildlife being killed illegally before their eyes and our utmost sympathy goes out to the family.
“We regularly gather evidence of raptor persecution, either finding bodies full of shot or illegal traps, but it’s rare that a bird is killed and filmed right in front of someone. This incident really brings home the horrible reality of what is happening to our birds of prey.
“We are so grateful to them for picking up the phone and reporting this incident. We know that passing on information about any crime can be difficult, but if you do see anything, or have any information about this or any other crime involving birds of prey, please call our confidential hotline number (0300 999 0101). Your call could make all the difference and prevent more birds being killed.
“We are in a climate and ecological emergency and losing our wildlife at a frightening rate. We all have a role to play, which is why we need an immediate halt to incidents such as this.”
If you have any information relating to this incident, call Kent on 101 and quote the crime reference: 11-0064. You can also call the RSPB’s confidential Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101.
If you find a wild bird of prey which you suspect has been illegally killed, email RSPB Investigations on firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in the online form: https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/our-positions-and-campaigns/positions/wildbirdslaw/reportform.aspx