A SCOTTISH gamekeeper has been fined after pleading guilty to killing a protected bird of prey.

Rory Parker admitted to killing a sparrowhawk while employed by the Moy Estate, near Inverness.

The estate is currently under licence restrictions, imposed by NatureScot in June 2022 after the police provided “robust evidence” that birds had been killed or taken illegally on the land.

The RPSB said the conviction of Parker had been secured after the incident was “directly filmed by RSPB Scotland Investigations staff on September 16, 2021”.

READ MORE: Bird of prey persecution remains at ‘high level’, RSPB report warns

A video taken by the team shows a plastic “decoy” owl on a fence post, which the RSPB said was most likely being used to attract birds of prey.

A man stood near the owl can be seen to raise a gun and fire two shots, before scrambling over moorland to collect a bird which is clearly still alive but injured enough that it cannot escape.

Parker pled guilty and was fined £1500 at Inverness Sheriff Court on March 31. The RSPB said he is the 56th gamekeeper to be convicted of raptor persecution offences in Scotland since 1990.

The charity further said that its “Birdcrime” report for 2021 found that over two-thirds of confirmed raptor persecution incidents were in relation to land managed for gamebird shooting.

All birds of prey are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and killing them is punishable by an unlimited fine and/or jail.

Scottish estates may target birds of prey for fear that they will predate and kill young grouse or eat eggs, reducing their numbers and making shooting less profitable.

Ian Thomson, the head of investigations for RSPB Scotland, said: “This conviction was the end result of exemplary partnership working between Police Scotland, RSPB Scotland, the Wildlife DNA Forensics team at Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture and the Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit of COPFS [Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service].

“It is clear, however, with the shooting of a red kite on another Highland grouse moor earlier this week, and ongoing investigations into incidents on other estates, that current sanctions appear to be no deterrent to criminal activity by employees of the grouse shooting industry, with their onslaught against protected birds of prey continuing unabated.”

He added: “We hope that the Scottish Parliament expedites the passage of laws in the Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill introducing proper regulation of that industry, where the right to shoot grouse is dependent on operating within the law.”

Dee Ward, vice policy chair at Scottish Land and Estates, said: “We condemn raptor persecution in the strongest possible terms and it is right and proper that anyone who commits such an act is prosecuted and convicted.

"In this case, the illegal persecution of a sparrowhawk near pheasant and partridge release pens is particularly disappointing given the progress made by the sector in driving down raptor crime in recent years and industry-wide condemnation of this unacceptable behaviour. We will continue to do all that we can to prevent, detect and condemn anyone who thinks this kind of abhorrent behaviour is acceptable.”