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Shocking “live bait” poisoning of buzzards in Rosscrea

Poisoned buzzard (image via Birdwatch Ireland)The appalling practice of poisoning birds of prey in rural Ireland continues, and took an even more sinister twist recently according to last week’s Birdwatch Ireland eWings newsletter.

Ireland’s largest conservation NGO revealed that volunteers monitoring buzzards near the Offaly / Tipparary border found live pigeons laced with poison and staked out specifically to target predatory birds.

The pigeons, which had been tethered and had their wings clipped to prevent escape,  were tied down in close proximity to a buzzards nest. They were completely covered in illegal carbofuran poison.  Beside the partially consumed carcass of one of the pigeons the volunteers found two of the three Buzzard chicks from the nest. The birds had died instantly after feeding on one of poisoned pigeon.

“We couldn’t believe someone had poisoned the chicks,” said one of the volunteers. “We had been watching them all summer and it was sickening to see them killed like that for no reason.”

The land owner, who had been cooperating with the Birdwatch Ireland volunteers to monitor the young buzzards, was equally outraged by the incident.

“I had absolutely no problem with these birds.  They have been around for at least the last three years and have done nobody any harm, and they have not caused me or any of the other farmers in the area any problems whatsoever. I gave nobody permission to come on my land and lay down poison, and whoever did so was trespassing,” he said.

The poisoning was reported to the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Gardai who visited the scene to collect evidence. An investigation into the crime is on going.

Sparrowhawk poisoned using live baitUnbelievably when the volunteers returned to the scene the following day to check on the surviving buzzard chick they discovered more live pigeons tethered in the same place, and although the remaining chick was alive, they found the remains of another raptor – this time a sparrowhawk, lying next to one of the partially consumed pigeons.

“This was a very deliberate targeting of a locally well-known Buzzard nest and a particularly cruel way of using hand-reared pigeons as live bait in order to poison the birds,” commented Alan Lauder, Birdwatch Ireland’s CEO. “Apart from being illegal, the laying of poison in the countryside to target any type of wildlife should no longer be tolerated in Ireland today.

As well as the danger to wildlife, Carbofuran is a particularly dangerous poison and could have caused serious harm to anything or anybody else who came into contact with it. According to the Birdwatch Ireland report if local children come across the pigeons, and had tried to rescue them, the poison could well have proved fatal.

“This is incredibly frustrating and disheartening.  We have witnessed many poisonings of birds of prey, but this incident is particularly gruesome and was obviously meticulously planned to do as much damage to the nesting Buzzards as possible,” said John Lusby, Birdwatch Ireland’s Raptor officer.  “Carbofuran is a lethal substance, and in addition to the intended targets, the Buzzards, it would have also killed anything else that came into contact with it, including pets and even children.”

Buzzards in Ireland feed mainly on rabbits and rats, helping to keep the numbers of these species (which landowners often regard as pests) under control.

Birdwatch Ireland is urging members of the public to help the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Gardaí with their investigation of this abhorrent case. If you have any information that might help please contact the National Parks and Wildlife Service on 05791 37811 or Birr Garda station on 05791 69710.

If you encounter a dead bird of prey, or another species which you suspect may have been poisoned, do not disturb the scene and please report the incident immediately to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (see the State Directory section in the phonebook) or BirdWatch Ireland on 01 2819878.


  • dirty dogs – typical in this country

    • I don’t like to see any bird or animal killed . but. I have a flock of about 20 wild doves feeding in my garden for the last 8 years about six weaks ago I saw a bird of pray kill one later the same day it killed one more now and so on I have four doves left it just kills everthing. I don’t know how people think they have the power to bring birds of pray back into Ireland at the cost of all our other birds that have done so well for so many years . This crap has destroyed our rivers and lakes by bringing in new fish / it was also done with our earth worms also our red squirrels and so on.The people that done this should be locked up . when all our birds are gone and we are left only with birds of pray all the ……… big men will shut up and hide so the so called BIRD WATCH IRELAND SHOULD THINK AGAIN little people with big names don’t have the say on what birds live or get eating alive by your birds of pray.

      • Mairead

        Derek you don’t have a clue, you don’t even know the difference between invasive species and native species. Every bird of prey in Ireland is native to Ireland its just that people like you nearly made them extinct! Maybe you would be better off spending your time researching Irish wildlife than talking shit. I actually got sick in my mouth when I read your post! Its people like you that should be locked up

      • Avatar photo

        Hi Derek, thanks for taking the time to comment.

        It is of course upsetting when a bird of prey takes a garden bird that you’ve been feeding, but it’s a perfectly natural occurrence. I suspect the bird in question was probably a female sparrowhawk — which is of course a native bird of prey that has not been reintroduced. Statistically scientific studies of bird populations show that predation by raptors (birds of prey) doesn’t have a significant impact on overall numbers… although intense predation will naturally have a short term impact at a local level. Generally predator and prey populations form a self regulating cycle where predator numbers and prey numbers are dependent on one another.

        None of the three birds of prey being reintroduced into Ireland (the golden eagle, the white-tailed eagle and the red kite) is likely to have a significant impact on small birds. All of them were originally here anyway — they are an intrinsic part of a functioning Irish ecosystem. These birds only disappeared through centuries of human persecution — it’s only fitting that we take steps to redress that balance if we can. Unfortunately the “other birds” you mention have done so well for many years, by and large haven’t. Most of our farmland and countryside birds have suffered sharp declines over the last 30 years or so… the culprit, not birds of prey, but habitat loss through the intensification and specialisation of Irish farming practices. The way we manage vast tracts of land in this country today simply isn’t wildlife friendly — and that includes birds.

        Reintroduction of once native species, where viable, is completely different to introducing an invasive alien species (the grey squirrel, american mink and the fish you mention fall into this category. They don’t belong here… native species haven’t evolved strategies to coexist with them, they have few natural checks and balances, and run rampant in our countryside.

        So — you’re talking about two very different things. The reintroduction projects are just that — reintroducing species that belong here, but were persecuted to extinction by people. Invasives are a real problem… they don’t belong, and do untold damage to local ecosystems.

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