RSPB and PSNI investigate shooting of rare Red Kite bird in Co Down

A red kite in flight
-Credit: (Image: RSPB)


Police have issued an appeal for information after a Red Kite bird was put to sleep after being found injured on Sandy Road, near Mayobridge in Co Down last month.

The injured bird was found in the vicinity of Cullion Road in Newry on Saturday, 20th April. It was later taken to a local veterinary clinic for treatment at the time, but, we are sad to report, due to its injuries being consistent with being shot, it had to be put to sleep.

Following an X-ray on April 22nd and later confirmation from Agri-Food and Biosciences (AFBI), it became evident in the X-Ray that the bird had been shot, as pellets were embedded in its wing and neck, including a fracture to its humerus.

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The bird had to be euthanised, due to the extent of its injuries. This protected bird of prey is believed to be the eighteenth Red Kite to have been illegally killed in Northern Ireland since the species was reintroduced, and the PSNI and RSPB NI are appealing for more information.

Known as Vivienne, this female kite had hatched in 2018 from a nest in the Dromara Hills. Vivienne’s unusual pale plumage (caused by a genetic mutation in the pigmentation of her feathers) made her easily recognisable and distinguishable from other Red Kites. She had been admired by birdwatchers, members of the local community and visitors and was a regularly seen in the Dromara area.

She had previously been found in poor condition in 2021 and was rehabilitated by Red Kite volunteers before being returned to the wild. However, despite the committed efforts made to ensure Vivienne’s survival, just three years later this healthy Red Kite’s life ended prematurely after she sustained fatal shotgun wounds.

Dean Jones, RSPB Investigations Officer for Northern Ireland, said: “The fact that this particular Red Kite was such a well-known character in the area, will cause a lot of upset to the local community and really highlights the risk that birds of prey face on a day-to-day basis in Northern Ireland, all because some individuals choose to kill them.

“The shooting of Vivienne is just the latest in a growing number of raptor persecution cases in the country and these are likely to be only a small proportion of the actual numbers being killed. If you have any information relating to this incident or the illegal killing of any bird of prey in Northern Ireland, please contact RSPB and the PSNI, so we can effectively tackle and prevent these crimes.”

A PSNI spokesperson added: “The Red Kite is a large, protected bird of prey, re-introduced to Northern Ireland in 2008 and is a truly beautiful raptor with distinctive markings, recognised by its fork tail. This Red Kite, also nicknamed ‘Vivienne’ due to its identifying wing-tags brown-pink 6V, was well-known in the area and throughout the Mournes since it was born here back in 2018.

“At this time, we are asking for information from the public due to offences falling under the Wildlife (NI) Order 1985 as amended by the Wildlife and Natural Environment Act (NI) 2011. Police take all wildlife crime very seriously and are appealing to anyone who has information about what may have happened to this protected bird to call us on 101, quoting reference number 1229 22/04/24.

“If you are aware of anyone in the area intent on harming birds of prey please contact police.” You can also make a report via www.psni.police.uk/makeareport or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.

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