The following press release has just been issued by the RSPB.

The man was caught on camera shooting at the hawk from a garden fence

  • Yovanis Cruz, who keeps racing pigeons, admitted killing the protected hawk by firing ball bearings at it with a catapult after it attacked one of his birds
  • The crime was caught on CCTV by a neighbour’s camera
  • Cruz, who ‘acted without mercy’, was fined £801 at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court today (25 February)

A man who killed a protected sparrowhawk in his neighbour’s garden, using a catapult, has been spared jail but handed a fine of over £800.

Yovanis Cruz, of Copsey Grove, Portsmouth, appeared at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court today (25 February 2020) facing 1 charge of intentionally killing a wild bird contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. He pleaded guilty and was fined £653 plus £85 costs and a £63 victim surcharge.

Cruz, who keeps racing pigeons in his garden, was caught red-handed by his neighbour’s CCTV camera on 2 December 2019. The footage shows him sitting on his garden fence and a sparrowhawk - which has caught a pigeon - on the ground below. Cruz fires at the sparrowhawk twice, killing it, then attempts to recover the body with a rake.

The neighbour reported the incident to Hampshire Police and the RSPB who launched a joint investigation. A post-mortem revealed a ball-bearing lodged in the sparrowhawk’s skull.

Sparrowhawks are protected by law. The penalty for intentionally killing or harming one is an unlimited fine and/or up to six months imprisonment.

District Judge Gary Lucie said: “It was clearly an intentional offence. You did not act with any mercy especially as your pigeon escaped unhurt.

“You could have scared off the sparrowhawk so it would have flown off. Instead you carefully approached it and hit it with a single shot.”

He added: “It isn't a rare endangered species but is fully protected in law. It has a population of 35,000 which has been in decline for the last 10 years due to a number of problems.

“The RSPB say the persecution of raptors is a significant national problem.”

The sparrowhawk was shot in the head with a ball bearing, fired from a catapult

Earlier this month a man in Scotland pleaded guilty to killing a sparrowhawk with an air rifle after it attacked one of his pigeons. He was fined £450.

Jenny Shelton from the RSPB’s Investigations Unit said: “All birds of prey are protected by law. Sparrowhawks were heavily persecuted in the past and sadly, despite legal protection, continue to be illegally killed. Between 2007-18, 49 sparrowhawks were victims of illegal persecution, and these are only the ones we know about. Statistics also show that, of all raptor persecution convictions since 1990, ‘pigeon fanciers’ make up over 5%.

“We would like to thank Hampshire Constabulary and the CPS for their thorough investigation and hope that this serves as an example to others that killing a bird of prey is unacceptable and has consequences.”

“We are also grateful to the individual who did the right thing and reported this crime. If you find a dead or injured bird of prey in suspicious circumstances, or witness a crime against a bird of prey, please contact the police immediately on 101, and report it to the RSPB on Your call could make all the difference.”

You can also report crimes against birds of prey to the RSPB online at: