A MAN who found a dead buzzard while out walking his dogs has handed the bird of prey over to the police for testing, as he suspects it may have been shot.
Adrian McGrail found the bird, which he believes is only a few months old, in the Loughgall Road area outside Armagh.
It is the second dead buzzard he has found in the area in less than a year.
And a raptor protection group revealed this is not the first incident involving birds of prey in this location.
In 2010, tests confirmed that two buzzards, which were found in the area, had been poisoned by a banned pesticide.
In fact, figures provided by the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group (NIRSG) revealed that of 57 birds of prey killed between 2009 and 2016, one-third (19) were discovered in Co Armagh.
Of the 57, 29 were buzzards.
All birds of prey are protected by law in Northern Ireland, and penalties can include a custodial sentence of up to six months and/or a fine of up to £5,000.
Mr McGrail, who keeps a range of birds of his own as a hobby, including peacocks, ducks and cockatiels, came across the buzzard on Sunday morning and said it was obvious that it wasn’t long dead.
He said: “For the past two years I’ve watched and admired the beauty of these wonderful birds, so I am very angry at having found the bodies of two of them.
“I didn’t report the first one because it was quite decomposed but when I found this latest one I decided something had to be done.
“If it is proven that these birds were shot, I feel very sorry for the person who did it. They are either sick or ignorant and must be stopped.”
Dr Eimear Rooney, raptor officer with NIRSG, said the numbers reported are “only the tip of the iceberg”.
“Many more birds of prey suspected to have been illegally killed are reported to PSNI each year, but many of these are too decomposed for successful testing,” she said. “It is also likely that other incidents occur in rural areas where victims are not found and so go unreported.”
Referring to the incidents in Castledillon eight years ago, she said it had been confirmed that both birds had been poisoned using the banned pesticide Carbofuran.
“Carbofuran has been banned across the EU since 2001... due to its high toxicity to wildlife and humans. There is no lawful reason to be in possession of, or to use, this pesticide,” she said.
“Birds of prey are predators at the top of the food chain and are an important component of our ecosystem. They are also important indicators of the general state of our biodiversity and health of our environment.”
Dr Rooney said buzzards recolonised naturally in Northern Ireland in the mid-1950s having become extinct in the early 1900s as a result of habitat loss and persecution.
And she added that they pose no threat whatsoever to animals, farmers or crops.
She added: “Wildlife crimes against birds of prey, including shooting, poisoning, trapping, nest destruction and disturbance when nesting, should be reported to the PSNI.
"We would urge anyone who saw anything suspicious in this area around October 28/29 to call PSNI on 101 and use the crime reference 441/29.10.18.”
A police spokesperson said: “Police in Armagh recovered a dead wild bird from the Loughgall Road area of Armagh following a report from a member of the public on Monday, October 29.
“The bird has been sent for a post mortem examination and other tests to determine the cause of death.”