Rat Poison Linked to Decline in Birds of Prey in Ireland
by Eoin Burke-Kennedy
THE INDISCRIMINATE use of poisons to kill rats or mice has been linked to an alarming decline in some of Ireland’s most iconic birds of prey, such as barn owls and kestrels. According to one of the country’s leading experts, several native species of raptor – the ornithological term for birds of prey – are feeding on contaminated rodents and inadvertently ingesting poisons.
Raptor conservation officer with BirdWatch Ireland John Lusby said substances used in certain rodenticides were extremely toxic and can accumulate within birds. This type of “secondary poisoning” is thought to be behind a sharp fall-off in the number of barn owls. Known by their distinctive white plumage and eerie silent flight, the owls have seen their breeding population here plummet by more than 70 per cent in the past 20 years alone.
Recent estimates suggest there are now only between 400 and 500 pairs left in the country. “In Ireland, we have fewer small mammal species compared to other countries like Britain, so barn owls here depend on rats and mice as prey to a greater extent,” Mr Lusby said.
(read more: Irish Times)
(photos: TL - Hen Harrier, TR - Golden Eagle, B - White-tailed Eagle)