A rare red kite which was adopted by Ballyclare High School in 2011 has been found dead in County Down after being deliberately shot.
The female bird, born in Wales in 2010, was discovered near Katesbridge on May 20.
Red kites became extinct over 200 years ago, but in 2008 the RSPB NI joined forces with the Welsh Kite Trust and the Golden Eagle Trust to reintroduce the species to Northern Ireland’s skies.
The current population is thought to stand at around 14 breeding pairs.
In 2011, it was adopted by Ballyclare High School and named Fawkes. Teacher Dr Adrian Witherow said: “We are extremely disappointed about what has happened to Fawkes. Both the staff and pupils at Ballyclare High School were fully behind the red kite re-introduction scheme and it is a real shame that the bird which we have followed for a number of years has been deliberately targeted.”
“RSPB NI has offered us the chance to adopt a chick born this year, which will be doing to show our ongoing support for the project.”
Claire Barnett from RSPB NI said: “Kites are opportunistic scavengers, feeding mostly on worms and small dead animals and aren’t a threat to livestock or people. Red kites are so vulnerable that they are listed as ‘A1’ species, meaning their nests are protected all year round and crimes against them are eligible for a higher penalty.
“I would appeal for anyone with information about this incident to report it to the police on 101.”