THE low numbers of hen harriers in the Borders have been attributed to illegal killings, writes Kenny Paterson.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Scotland revealed the findings in its Illegal Killing of Birds of Prey in Scotland in 2011 report.
The paper also highlighted the deaths of two other birds of prey and two rare chicks, which were poisoned or shot last year.
An RSPB Scotland spokesman told TheSouthern: “There is an unusually low number of hen harriers in the south east of Scotland, between one and two pairs. This is of great concern as the Lammermuir and Moorfoot hills should be perfect areas for the species.
“It may be due to previous years when birds have mysteriously disappeared, albeit there was evidence in some cases of human interference. It is a concern across the whole of Scotland, where hen harrier numbers have fallen by 22 per cent between 2004 and 2010.
“We believe illegal persecutions have been one of the causes.”
The charity noted two birds were poisoned in the Borders in 2011 – a buzzard near Heriot in January and a raven near Duns in September – as well as two Goshawk chicks which were shot from a nest near Peebles in July.
The spokesman added: “There are only 130 breeding pairs of Goshawk in Scotland, so any crimes affecting these birds will have a huge local impact and is a great concern.”