Media coverage



Three red kites have been found illegally poisoned in a blow to efforts to re-establish a thriving population across north east England.

One found near a grouse moor died from Carbofuran poisoning despite the use of the chemical being banned in Britain since 2002. The two others were found together and died as a result of poisoning by Aldicarb, a widely-used pesticide which has been implicated in deliberate poisonings elsewhere in Britain.

The bodies of all three were recovered and sent for post-mortem examination after tip-offs from the public.

The three deaths, revealed by Friends of Red Kites (FoRK), the voluntary group set up to protect and monitor the population, brings the region's total number of known kite casualties from illegal poisoning to ten in recent years.

FoRK has condemned the killings but fears that the known deaths are just the tip of the iceberg and that many more dead birds are never found. It believes that persistent persecution, mainly through illegal poisoned baits, is among factors preventing the birds from spreading from their core Derwent Valley sites.

The bird killed by Carbofuran was found near Edmundbyers, Co Durham. The two others were found at High Spen, Gateshead, and included a wing-tagged female from a nearby breeding site which had produced young for the previous four years.

Previous poisoning involved two kites found dead in Hexhamshire and a breeding pair killed near Whittonstall whose chicks then perished in the nest. Other local kites were found poisoned in Teesdale and Wharfedale, Yorkshire. Another bird, which moved to Scotland, was found poisoned in the Cairngorms. Other kites have been found in suspicious circumstances but have been dead too long for scientific examination.

Allan Withrington, FoRK Kite Welfare Officer, said: "These poisonings are appalling and totally unacceptable. Carbofuran has been illegal in this country for many years but is still apparently the poison of choice of those who illegally put out poisoned baits to target raptors, crows and foxes. "

"Leaving poisoned baits in the open is not only illegal but completely indiscriminate as the deaths of many bird and animals, including dogs and cats, has shown over the years."

"We will be continuing to do everything possible to expose those responsible and work with the police, farmers, landowners and other conservation organisations to protect the red kites and other species."

The most recent available figures from the RSPB show that there were 76 confirmed cases of illegal poisoning in Britain in 2013, including 19 from Carbofuran and 5 from Albicarb. Twenty-one red kites were among the victims which also included buzzard, white-tailed eagle, golden eagle and marsh harrier. Raven, magpie, sparrowhawk and even a collared dove also died along with two dogs and two cats.

Britain's single worst recorded wildlife poisoning incident occurred in April 2014 with red kites being the main victims. 16 kites and six buzzards were found dead near Inverness. Despite a major investigation by Police Scotland and rewards totalling £32,000 being offered no-one has been charged.



'Mills and Boon' red kite is released back into wild after traffic ...
3 days ago - The latest chapter in the colourful life of a red kite with a particular claim to North East fame has seen him released back into the wild after being ...



Media coverage will be stored here, the most recent being placed first

 The Times    21 February 2015

Kite over Tooting 


RSPB Scotland welcomes first UK prison sentence for raptor persecution

Last modified: 13 January 2015

Adult goshawk

Mr Mutch was imprisoned after being convicted of four counts relating to the persecution of Goshawks and other raptors

Image: Mark Hamblin

RSPB Scotland has welcomed the first imprisonment for raptor persecution following the conviction of gamekeeper George Mutch.

Welcoming the custodial sentence awarded at Aberdeen Sheriff Court to the convicted bird of prey killer George Mutch, Duncan Orr Ewing, head of species and land management at RSPB Scotland, said: "This sentence is an historic, landmark result. Mr Mutch has been sentenced to four months in prison following his conviction for the illegal killing of a goshawk; illegal use of a trap; and illegal taking of a buzzard and a second goshawk.

"We would like to thank the Crown Office and Police Scotland for helping to bring this case to a successful conviction, as well as the exemplary work of the RSPB Scotland investigations team. This penalty should be a turning point, sending a clear message to those determined to flout our laws that wildlife crime will not be tolerated but instead will be treated with the seriousness that it deserves. Wildlife criminals must expect no sympathy from now on."

George Mutch, who was convicted last month, was a gamekeeper working on the Kildrummy Estate near Alford in Aberdeenshire.



  Newcastle Journal Friday 05 January 2015


Journal  Record Year for our Red Kites 

 Report   by Tony Henderson




Chris Packham presents this programme shown first on BBC4 29th October 2014 .  

It is still available for 20 odd days



and the Red Kite is there!


 Will Robin be acclaimed our favourite bird again?

Daily Telegraph  31  October  2014

The osprey pine is Scotland's favourite tree.

A pine to which Britain's oldest breeding osprey has returned year after year has been named Scotland's top tree.

The 100 year old Scots pine, at the Loch of the Lowes nature reserve near Dunkeld, Perthshire, has been summer home to the "hardy old bird" named Lady by wardens for the past twenty-four years.

In that time, she has laid 71 eggs and fledged 50 chicks at the top of the pine, known as Lady's Tree.

In the spring, rangers feared that Lady would not return to her nest due to her advanced age.  However, they were delighted when she came back in March and yet again laid three eggs, though none of them hatched.

Audiences around the world have been able to watch Lady on her tree on a special webcam site set up by reserve managers The Scottish Wildlife Trust.

Lady on nest at Loch of the Lowes 

Image courtesy of Scottish Wildlife Trust


 Raptor Persecution Scotland


Ross-shire Massacre: six months on




It's been (just over) six months since 22 raptors were poisoned in a single incident at Conon Bridge in Ross-shire.

So far, we know that 16 of those birds (12 red kites + 4 buzzards) were killed by ingesting "an illegally-held poisonous substance". We know that the name of the poison has been redacted from official government documents in the public domain. We know that nobody has been arrested.

That, in a nutshell, is about the sum total of the 'official' information that is available about one of the most high-profile wildlife crimes in recent years.

Isn't that amazing? Six months on and that's all there is?

However, if you'd been sitting in Lecture Marquee #3 at the Rutland Birdfair on Saturday 16th August, you'd have heard that the poison used to kill all those birds was Carbofuran, and that the perpetrator is known. Indeed, the (alleged) perpetrator was virtually named and anyone sitting in that marquee who had any local knowledge of Conon Bridge would know exactly who was being implicated.

It was an astonishing talk delivered by Sir John Lister-Kaye, who introduced himself as a Vice-president of RSPB. It was astonishing both in the level of detail about the case that was delivered, but also in the level of inaccuracy about raptor persecution in general. For someone with Lister-Kaye's credentials, the content of that talk left our jaws hanging open.

Given the wholly inaccurate statements he made about raptor persecution in general (including a claim that Carbofuran could be used under licence to treat seed crops (!!) and that raptor killing in Scotland has never really been widespread until very recently and then only as the landowners' angry backlash following the introduction of vicarious liability), his statements about the Ross-shire Massacre need to be treated with caution.

Nevertheless, whilst he deserves to be pulled up on his shoddy research skills, he deserves credit for standing up in that marquee and giving more information in 20 minutes than Police Scotland has managed in six months.



  Red Kites flourishing in Yorkshire


Red Kites are back in skies over Yorkshire after a successful programme of protecting the once endangered birds. But 15 years since the reintroduction, conservationists are still worried about bird of prey persecution.


Red Kites should be enjoyed not targeted say RSPBRed Kites are flourishing once again in Yorkshire but the North of the county still has one of the worst records nationally for reports of crimes against birds of prey.Tim Melling spoke to Duncan and Christine about how the birds have recovered since being reintroduced to the area 15 years ago: 7:38 pm, Thu 10 Apr 2014

Skies not yet clear for Red Kites

There are calls for tougher penalties for wildlife criminals after figures showed 30 red kites have been shot or poisoned in Yorkshire since the birds were re-introduced in the region 15 years ago.

Red kites were all but wiped from Britain's skies in Victorian times when the rapidly expanding population saw the birds, which are scavengers, as a threat to food supplies.

Now more than 100 years later, conservationists in our region are at the forefront of the campaign to ensure the birds of prey have a brighter future. Emma Wilkinson reports.

Back from the brink of extinction, Red Kites are flourishing since they were re-introduced on the Harewood Estate.  Doug Simpson led that project and was awarded an MBE in recognition of his work.


Doug Simpson MBE Yorkshire

He advised and  agreed to transfer their kite buildings to our Project in 2004, and we maintain contact.

He is concerned about the status of Red Kites, saying:

I was aware that there was a persecution problem.............since their reintroduction thirty red kites have been found dead, and those are the ones which have been found.

View the video to hear more about this.

 Sent to us by Linda Johnstone   Muir and Ord

 Highland Council united in

condemnation of Black Isle red kite killings

   Written by Laurence Ford

Highland councillors unite to condemn the recent killings. From left Carolyn Wilson, Isobel McCallum, Carolyn Caddick, David Alston, Drew Hendry and Deirdre Mackay.
Highland councillors unite to condemn the recent killings. From left Carolyn Wilson, Isobel McCallum, Carolyn Caddick, David Alston, Drew Hendry and Deirdre Mackay.

BIRD champions RSPB Scotland has welcomed the condemnation of the recent killings of birds of prey by Highland Council.

A motion condemning the slaughter of almost two dozen raptors was unimoiusly agreed by the full council in Inverness yesterday.

The council also pledged to work with police and other agencies to fight wildlife crime.

The motion, presented by senior representatives of the SNP, Liberal Democrat, Labour and Independent groups, read: "The Highland Council condemns the recent illegal killing of red kites and buzzards on the Black Isle both as wrong in itself and as an act with potential to reduce the economic benefits that wildlife tourism brings to the Highlands.

"The council urges anyone with relevant information to contact Police Scotland; welcomes the actions of Scottish Land & Estates and of NFU Scotland in supporting attempts to identify the culprit(s); and commits itself to continuing to work with community planning partners, through the Highland Environment Forum, to reinvigorate the fight against all wildlife crime in the Highlands."

Council leader Drew Hendry said: "This is an extremely serious matter. It has been a blow to the reputation of the Highlands, a blow to our economy and a blow to our daily lives."

RSPB spokesman Alan Tissiman said: "The deaths of so many birds - at the last count 16 red kites and six buzzards - has triggered an enormous response from the people of the Highlands.

"It is very encouraging that their elected representatives on the council are also speaking up on behalf of our wildlife."   



Two of our members, Tim Watson and June Atkinson, travelled to Inverness to show solidarity with those in the Black Isle Raptor Protest Rally.  Here is Tim's report:

  A short 'march' through Inverness and a well attended gathering of the public recorded widespread anger at the worst single incident of bird of prey persecution in modern times. 

 Raptor Rally

After 15 Red Kites and 4 Buzzards were found dead, mostly poisoned, in a small area of Easter Ross (Black Isle) in late March, members of the public, farms, estates and the conservation community came together on April 12th 2014 in the centre of town to call for an end to repeated wildlife crime. 

 Raptor Rally

  19 'ghost' raptors (white painted cut outs) were carried though the town from different directions before gathering in the town centre.

 Raptor Rally

 Raptor Rally

Speakers included Sir John Lister-Kaye, vice president of the RSPB and Allan Bantick, chair of the Scottish Wildlife Trust.
 Raptor Rally 

Because of the deaths of Red Kites, all from the Black Isle reintroduction scheme which started in 1989, two volunteers from Friends of Red Kites made the long journey north to show solidarity with the conservation community.  Sadly, Gateshead's own Red Kites, reintroduced between 2004-6, have not been immune from poisoning incidents and this is thought to be compromising the spread of the birds here in our region.    One of our kites flew north and was photographed along with the Scottish kites before heading south again.  A Black Isle bird which moved south in the winter of 2012/13 to mingle with our kites on the upper Pennines was found dead in March 2013.
This outpouring of anger is probably the first specific protest of its kind about bird/wildlife crime and comes as Golden Eagles, Peregrines, Goshawks and Hen Harriers are also still being targeted. (Reminds me of the heady days of anti-whaling marches in the 80's!)  It comes at a time when some are calling for protests around August 12th (so called Glorious Twelth) at the fact that no Hen Harriers nested successfully in England during 2013.

Images courtesy of June Atkinson

Muir of Ord  dead kites

                                                                Dead red kites from Muir of Ord                              Image L-D Johnstone

 BBC   12 April

Inverness 'ghost raptor' protest over Ross-shire bird poisonings

Red kite protest
People marched through the streets of Inverness to express anger at the deaths

"Start Quote

Scores of people marched to the city of Inverness over the deaths of 14 red kites and five buzzards. The birds have been found near Conon Bridge since 18 March.

Nineteen white cut-outs of birds dubbed "ghost raptors" were displayed during the event.

RSPB vice president Sir John Lister-Kaye, who attended the rally, said: "This incident is an outrage and the public are right to be angry."

"Poisoning is unacceptable and we call on the Scottish Government and the police to stamp it out."

Protester Andrea Goddard said: "If the public, RSPB and the authorities can pool our collective sadness and anger at this atrocity we may be able to effect real and lasting change. It's time for action."

Police Scotland, RSPB Scotland, Scottish SPCA and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) have been involved in investigating the deaths.

Members of the landowners organisation, Scottish Land & Estates, and NFU Scotland have contributed £12,000 towards a reward for information leading to the prosecution of whoever is responsible for the poisonings.

Dead red kite
The birds of prey include tagged red kites

Many of the red kites were tagged when they were chicks as part of a conservation project. They include a 16-year-old female kite tagged in 1998.

On Friday, SNH chairman Ian Ross has described the deaths as "shocking, grim and distressing".

The killings threatened Scotland's appeal as a wildlife tourism destination, he added.

Nature-based tourism is said to be worth £1.4bn a year to the Scottish economy.


 Black Isle Rally April 14

Image courtesy of June Atkinson

 Tim Watson (far right) and June Atkinson attended the Rally.  Some time ago, a Black Isle red kite flew south and was with our kites on Muggleswick Moor.  Sadly, it was later found dead.    More recently, one of our kites was found dead and forensic tests showed it had died of carborfuran poisoning.  This illustrates that we, in the broader region, face similar problems to those which have occurred in the Black Isle.


 Tim Watson and June Atkinson, two of our members,  attended this Rally

on behalf of Friends of Red Kites.

The number of dead raptors found in the Conon Bridge area of Ross-shire has risen to 19. These include 14 red kites and five buzzards.

Toxicology tests so far have determined that 12 of them (9 kites and 3 buzzards) had been poisoned. Tests have not yet been completed on all the corpses.

In response to one of the worst mass poisoning incidents in recent times, RSPB Scotland is organising a public protest in Inverness town centre this Saturday. The key aim of this protest is to let the Scottish Government know that we all want action to prevent this criminal persecution of our raptors from happening again.


Protest Date: Saturday 12th April at 2pm.

  Ross-shire Massacre: death toll rises to 18, and counting….

This is the story that just won't go away.

This morning we reported that a 13th dead red kite had been found (see here).

Now, a 14th red kite has been uncovered in the Ross-shire Massacre, bringing the total of confirmed dead birds to 18 (14 red kites & 4 buzzards). We fully expect this figure to rise again.

As the death toll grows, so does the reward fund, reflecting the public's increasing frustration and anger. If you'd like to donate, please click HERE.

red kite rspb


 The RSPB has set up an on-line donation page where those of us who want to show our disgust and outrage at the Ross-shire Massacre can contribute towards the 'reward for information' fund.

The reward was initially set up by RSPB with a £5,000 contribution. This has now been increased to £10,000 thanks to an anonymous donor. Here's our chance to further increase the reward.

If the reward is unclaimed, the funds will be used directly for contributing towards the RSPB's Investigation Unit - a small team of dedicated professionals doing their utmost against the powerful, well-funded and influential game-shooting industry.

If you'd like to show your support, and ramp up the pressure on the poisoning criminals who continue to commit these atrocities, you can donate here.

RSPB press release here.

Friends of Red Kites have made a contribution to this cause.

 British Trust for Ornithology  flags up this new site.  

 Welcome to BirdID

'Bird Identification' is a website for anyone who wants to learn more about birds and wants to gain formal evidence of their developing skills. Here you can choose to take a formal test on the birds in your own country or for the whole Western Palearctic, and receive a valid certificate at higher education level. You can also choose to join our field study trips in the Western Palearctic or study the birds yourself by using our training quiz.


Selection of BBC Videos about the Red Kite: