A young peregrine falcon shot down illegally near Long Melford is “on the mend”, according to the animal expert caring for her.
The rare bird of prey was blasted from the sky with a shotgun. Bird protection charity the RSPB is offering a £1,000 reward for information leading to a conviction for the crime.
The peregrine, whose numbers have increased in the UK to about 1,400 breeding pairs, is considered a rare bird and it is an offence under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act to intentionally kill or injure it.
The juvenile was found by a member of the public on a footpath by Chad Brook River near Long Melford. They thought it had accidentally flown into a fence and was just stunned.
Peppered with shot from the shotgun and with a broken wing, it was taken to Mulberry Court vets in Sudbury.
And it is now being looked after by falconry expert Stephen Younge at the Lavenham Falconry Centre in Monks Eleigh.
Mr Younge said the juvenile bird had a lucky escape.
“It’s very much on the mend, but it was a bit touch and go to start with,” he said. “It was very lucky because the shot didn’t hit any of its major organs.
“It has a broken wing and the shot is still inside her; it doesn’t get digested and will stay there.”
Mr Younge says he has managed to calm the bird to sit on a glove, and is trying to ensure it is not tamed.
When it is fully recovered, it will be kept in an aviary on its own until it is ready, hopefully, to be released – although that is not certain yet.
“It’s thought it’s about 14 weeks old, just a baby really and more or less straight out of its nest,” added Mr Younge.
“Whoever shot it had no excuse. If you don’t know what something is, you should never shoot it.”
Mr Younge said peregrines were very rare but in recent years had been making a comeback after numbers crashed in the 1960s due to the impact of pesticides.
Recently, a breeding pair had produced young in a nest on top of Norwich Cathedral.
“They have been making a comeback,” he said. “But they are still rare in this part of west Suffolk.”
Mark Thomas, RSPB’s investigations officer, said: “This bird has only recently left its nest and has already been shot, presumably by a person who intended to kill it.
“While it is good news that the bird has survived, it is unknown if the bird will make a full recovery – often they don’t and can’t ever fly again.
“Historically, the peregrine falcon is a frequent victim of persecution and numbers declined during the last two centuries due to illegal killing.
“Populations of the species have recovered but, unfortunately, we are still having birds shot and poisoned.
“We would urge anyone with information to contact the police or ourselves.”
The RSPB said peregrines typically pair for several years and may live up to 10 years of age – the oldest on record was more than 15 years old.
Both adult birds tend the young, which take their first flight after five or six weeks. Peregrines feed on medium-sized birds, predominately pigeons, which they catch in high-speed aerial stoops – although more often than not they fail to make a kill.
Anyone who may have information in relation to this incident is asked to contact Pc Mark Bryant on 101 or the RSPB on 01767 680551.