Sunday, July 18, 2010

Black Isle Red Kites Killed by Rat Poison

Secondary poisoning claims eight rare young birds from three separate broods

According to an article on, a Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) officer involved in monitoring the reintroduced population of red kites (raptors) on the Black Isle (off the coast of Scotland) believes that adult birds have been feeding their growing chicks with carcasses of pest animals that have been poisoned on local farmland, with catastrophic consequences.

Brian Etheridge, RSPB Red Kite Officer for North Scotland, has been monitoring the situation over the past 15 years. This summer, he visited three separate nests on the Black Isle and discovered eight chicks in total either dead or dying following ingestion of rodent carcasses contaminated with rat poison. "These young birds were displaying classic symptoms of rodenticide poisoning, a particularly painful way for any animal to die," commented Mr. Etheridge. “Many rodenticides contain anticoagulants, which gather in the liver of an animal causing heavy internal bleeding. Young red kite chicks undergo a particularly fast growing phase and require a rapid circulatory system in order to grow healthily. Anything that interferes with the blood supply of a young kite is of serious concern and sadly, in every instance, these rodenticides have proven fatal to them. These eight chicks were all quite big, and very close to leaving the nest, but the real number of chicks affected may be more than this. Chicks which die from rodenticides when very small may be removed from the nest by the adults and the cause of nest failure will be never be known. This incident is devastating for the Black Isle red kite population as these eight chicks represent nearly ten per cent of the total red kite chicks produced there this year."

The article goes on to mention that in order to prevent such accidents from occurring, the RSPB produced a leaflet on proper rodent control. "People can prevent the unnecessary deaths of an already rare and vulnerable species as well as injury and death of other wildlife including their own pets by seeking appropriate ways to control rodent infestation," says Mr. Etheridge. "…This leaflet contains impartial advice and best practice guidelines, such as searching for and correct disposal of dead and dying rats. It also recommends that farmers who regularly see kites foraging around their fields and farm buildings should be particularly cautious when using rodenticides, particularly in the summer months. I would really encourage everyone to have a read of it to get all the appropriate information on the subject prior to choosing rodenticides as a control option."

Etheridge continues, "There is no doubt in my mind that these latest poisoning cases are just tragic accidents but by making informed choices about pest control, we will be able to reduce rat numbers effectively as well as preventing unnecessary damage to our local wildlife.”

ACR’s Proposal for Proper Rodent Control

These farmers should be working with local cat rescue groups to implement a trap-neuter-relocation program. Farmers can give feral cats a second chance at life, by offering them food, shelter, and an outdoor home, while they naturally control the rodent population around the farm. Any prey not completely eaten by the cats can SAFELY be eaten by raptors. And NO POISON is required – nature knows best.

1 comment:

Animal News Blog said...

Couldn't find your contact info - and didn't know if this was something you'd help us get the word out about or not:

Thanks for your help!