Bird of prey adopted by Co Antrim school shot dead
A bird of prey that had been 'adopted' by a Co Antrim school has been shot and killed deliberately in Co Down.
Pupils at Ballyclare High school had found the bird in the Katesbridge area in May as they were supporting a re-introduction scheme of the red kites and had given it the nickname Fawkes.
The bird of prey is identifiable by its reddish-brown body, angled wings and deeply forked tail.
Red kites were saved from national extinction by one of the world's largest running protection programmes.
It is an 'amber list' species because of its historical decline and there are thought to be just 14 breeding pairs in Northern Ireland.
Ballyclare High teacher Adrian Witherow said:"We are extremely disappointed about what has happened to Fawkes."
Claire Barnett from RSPB NI said the fact the bird had been deliberately killed was "beyond belief".
"To lose any of our small red kite population is a real setback, but to find out that someone deliberately killed this magnificent bird of prey is beyond belief.
“Since the reintroduction scheme began we done a lot of work to raise awareness about these birds. While they are the largest bird of prey to nest in Northern Ireland, kites are opportunistic scavengers, feeding mostly on worms and small dead animals and aren’t a threat to livestock or people. Sadly, it’s clear that a minority of people still think they don’t have a place in our skies.”
Claire added: “Like all wild birds, red kites are protected by the law and it is an offence to injure or kill one. Red kites are so vulnerable that they are listed as ‘A1’ species, meaning their nests are protected all year round and crimes against them are eligible for a higher penalty.
“I would appeal for anyone with information about this incident to report it to the police on 101.
“We would also encourage the public to keep an eye out for Black K and Black M. Look for the tags on the underside of the wing and report any sightings to firstname.lastname@example.org”