Nine magnificent birds of prey were illegally killed in Northern Ireland in 2015, a new report has revealed.
The RSPB's latest Birdcrime report, published in a new online interactive format, reveals almost 250 reports of shooting, poisoning and destruction of birds of prey across the UK. Shockingly, it's thought these figures represent only a fraction of the illegal persecution, with many incidents going undetected and unreported.
In NI there were 20 reported incidents of bird of prey persecution and eight confirmed cases, involving nine birds. This represents a slight decline on the 2013 report (11 confirmed cases) and the 2014 report (15 confirmed cases) but still represents a real blow to the country's raptor populations.
Buzzards were worst affected, followed by peregrine falcons and red kites. Of the nine victims, five were shot and four were poisoned. Due to raptors' scavenging behaviour, they are extremely vulnerable to the indiscriminate use of illegal poison in the countryside.
Michelle Hill, Senor Conservation Officer at RSPB NI said: "The public perception of birds of prey is often divided - from those who love to see these awe-inspiring creatures soaring high in our skies, to those who mistakenly think they pose a danger to humans and livestock.
"The problem of illegal persecution is a constant battle and will only be won through raising awareness and concerted efforts to identify and penalise the minority of people who threaten these birds' very existence."
She added: "We would appeal to the public to report any suspected incidents of wildlife crime to their local police station on 101 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."