Protected Red Kite dies after being shot

Red Kite in flight
Vivienne the Red Kite was distinguishable due to her unusual pale plumage [Neal Warnock/RSPB]

A rare, protected bird of prey had to be euthanised by a vet after it was shot in County Down.

The Red Kite, which had been given the name Vivienne, was found injured in Mayobridge on 20 April.

An X-ray later showed that pellets were embedded in her wing and neck, fracturing a bone, according to the police.

Officers are investigating the attack on the protected species as a wildlife crime and have appealed to the public for help in finding out who was responsible.

Vivienne is believed to be the 18th Red Kite illegally killed since the species was reintroduced to Northern Ireland in 2008.

'Well-known character'

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said Vivienne was "easily recognisable and distinguishable from other Red Kites" because of her unusually pale plumage.

The charity explained her pale colouring was caused by a genetic mutation in the pigmentation of her feathers.

"The fact that this particular Red Kite was such a well-known character in the area, will cause a lot of upset to the local community," said RSPB Investigations Officer Dean Jones.

Vivienne was native to the County Down area, having been hatched in 2018 from a nest in the Dromara Hills.

"She had been admired by birdwatchers, members of the local community and visitors and was a regularly seen in the Dromara area," the RSPB said.

Vivienne was previously rescued by Red Kite volunteers in 2021 after she was found in a poor condition.

On that occasion she was successfully rehabilitated and returned to the wild.

Mr Jones said her premature death three years after that rescue "really highlights the risk that birds of prey face on a day-to-day basis in Northern Ireland, all because some individuals choose to kill them".

'Iconic species'

Red Kites were reintroduced to Northern Ireland 16 years ago, having been absent from the skies fore more than 200 years.

The RSPB said the "iconic species has been slowly increasing" and it believes there are currently about 25 territorial pairs in Northern Ireland.

But the charity added that since their reintroduction, Red Kites have "suffered continuously from illegal persecution" in the form of shootings and poisonings.

"The shooting of Vivienne is just the latest in a growing number of raptor persecution cases in the country and these are likely to be only a small proportion of the actual numbers being killed," Mr Jones said.

A police spokesperson described Red Kites as "a truly beautiful raptor with distinctive markings, recognised by its fork tail".

They explained that Vivienne got her name due to identifying brown-pink wing-tags that were marked "6V".

She was found injured in the Cullion Road area of Mayobridge before being brought to a local veterinary clinic.

“Police take all wildlife crime very seriously and are appealing to anyone who has information about what may have happened to this protected bird to call us," the spokesperson added.

“If you are aware of anyone in the area intent on harming birds of prey please contact police.”