Peregrines specifically targeted and shot at nests in South Tipperary

31st July 2013

A spate of particularly sinister shootings of nesting Peregrine Falcons in south Tipperary have once again regrettably confirmed that raptors are still subject to horrendous acts of illegal persecution. Two breeding adults have been shot in recent weeks at two separate nest sites, both of which were located in church ruins, and a third bird has been recovered which was also believed to have been shot.
A BirdWatch Ireland member from our Tipperary Branch recovered the body of an adult female directly under her nest in mid-June, and after inspecting the carcass it was obvious that the injuries were consistent with that of a gun-shot wound. Kevin Collins, a bird of prey expert who found the dead falcon, commented, "This was the first year that Peregrines had nested at the church tower. I had been monitoring the site closely and was horrified when I found the female dead under the nest. I immediately contacted the local NPWS conservation Ranger, who in turn informed the Gardaí. The local people in the village had taken a keen interest in these birds and everyone has been disgusted by what has happened. It was particularly devastating that a female which had chicks in the nest was killed."

The body of the female Peregrine Falcon that was found shot dead in south Co. Tipperary (Photo: Kevin Collins)
The body of the female Peregrine Falcon that was found
shot dead in south Co. Tipperary
(Photo: Kevin Collins)

Although the Peregrine is the fastest bird in the world, capable of reaching speeds of up to 389km per hour, due to the manner in which they defend their nest sites from intruders they can leave themselves exposed. The Peregrine population is currently experiencing a recovery in Ireland after their numbers were decimated during the 1950s and 1960s due to the widespread use of DDT and other agricultural pesticides; however, they remain very vulnerable to human persecution, which has been clearly highlighted through these recent incidents as well as other shootings and poisonings which have claimed Peregrines in recent years.

Only a few days after the first Peregrine carcass was discovered, a second adult male Peregrine was found in a distressed state at another nest site nearby. This bird had an apparent gun-shot wound through its wing and was brought to Animal Magic, a rehabilitation centre in Kilmallock, Co. Limerick which specialises in the care of birds of prey. However the extent of the injury means that the falcon is unlikely to ever be returned to the wild.

Rosie Cambell, who manages the centre, said, "We received a report from a couple near Cahir of a bird of prey in their garden and which was apparently unable to fly. It turned out to be an adult male Peregrine Falcon, in breeding condition. We managed to catch the bird and after a quick assessment it was obvious that his wing was broken and that there was a hole going right through this wing, indicating that it had been shot. The couple who had reported the bird had also heard shots fired in the field behind their house the previous evening."

Rosie continued, "We took the falcon back to the centre, cleaned and dressed the wound, strapped the wing and put him on a course of antibiotics. A few days later we checked on the progress of the injury and although the bone was healing, the area below the wound looked to be dying, due to the loss of blood supply. We have tried various methods to promote increased blood supply to the area, but the prognosis is not good. It looks as though the area supporting the primary wing feathers may slough, a process similar to frost bite in humans.

"It looks likely that he may never be able to hunt for himself again and all we can do is to give him the best quality of life in captivity here with us."

Rosie Cambell with the male Peregrine that was taken into care at Animal Magic (Photo: Dennis McCarthy)
Rosie Cambell with the male Peregrine that was taken into care at Animal Magic
(Photo: Dennis McCarthy)

At the time of the incidents there were young Peregrines at both nests which had just fledged, but which were still dependent on the adults for food. These juveniles have not been sighted in recent weeks and it is not known if they survived and managed to leave their natal sites.

Appallingly, the body of the adult male was subsequently recovered in July from the site where the female had been previously found dead, meaning that both adults at this nest site had been killed in separate incidents. Although the carcass had been scavenged, the circumstances once again indicated it had been shot, and a full post mortem will be conducted to determine the cause of death.

John Lusby, Raptor Conservation Officer with BirdWatch Ireland, stated, "These were unbelievably cruel acts, which appear to have been premeditated to do as much damage as possible. Unfortunately negative sentiments towards birds of prey seem to remain amongst a very small minority, and we need to work towards changing these attitudes and enforcing the legislation where acts of illegal persecution such as these are committed."

The incidents were reported to the National Parks and Wildlife Service and to the Gardaí, who are currently investigating both cases.

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