HAND-REARED live pigeons were coated in poison, tethered to the ground and used to kill two wild buzzards near the Tipperary-Offaly border, according to BirdWatch Ireland.
BirdWatch volunteers were horrified to discover the two dead buzzard chicks beside three poisonous tethered pigeons near Roscrea.
BirdWatch Ireland Development Officer Niall Hatch said the banned insecticide Carbofuran used to kill the buzzards is so toxic “a quarter of a teaspoonful is enough to kill a fully grown adult”.
“There is a really serious public safety issue here as well,” he said, “whoever is responsible for planting the poison took a real risk themselves”. Had the pigeons been found by children who attempted to rescue them, “you could be reporting on an even worse story today,” he added.
No motive has yet been established. Buzzards eat rabbits, crows, magpies, rats and mice. They will occasionally feed on a dead lamb, but are incapable of killing a lamb, said Mr Hatch.
An indigenous bird, the buzzard was absent in Ireland from the late 19th century until 1933, when a pair bred in Co Antrim. The species has spread slowly down from the north through the 20th century and is now established in almost every county in Ireland.
BirdWatch Ireland say this was a particularly abhorrent incident.
The live hand-reared pigeons were tethered to the ground as bait, their bodies coated with poison and their wings clipped to prevent any chance of escape.
A day after the dead buzzards were found last month, another live, poison-coated pigeon was discovered tethered in the same area.
The buzzards’ nest in Roscrea was being monitored by two young volunteers from BirdWatch Ireland’s Raptor Conservation Project since early spring. They had been charting the progress of the three young buzzard chicks.
One volunteer said: “we had been watching them all summer and it was sickening to see them killed like that for no reason”.
The farmer on whose land the birds were nesting said: “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.
In October 2010, laws were passed making it illegal to use poison to kill birds or animals, with the exception of rats and mice.
An investigation has been launched and anyone with information is urged to contact the National Parks and Wildlife Service on 057 91 37811 or Birr Garda station on 057 91 69710.
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