‘No wrongdoing’ over death of rare goshawk on Queen’s Norfolk estate

PUBLISHED: 12:00 15 February 2017 | UPDATED: 12:18 15 February 2017

The female goshawk pictured after having its tag fitted. Picture: BTO

The female goshawk pictured after having its tag fitted. Picture: BTO


Police have ruled out foul play over the death of a rare bird of prey on the Queen’s Norfolk estate.

The goshawk's movements around Sandringham and the surrounding area before it died. Picture: courtesy of British Trust for OrnithologyThe goshawk's movements around Sandringham and the surrounding area before it died. Picture: courtesy of British Trust for Ornithology

A young female goshawk, fitted with a tracking device, died at Sandringham on August 9.

Royal aides sent the device back to the Thetford-based British Trust for Ornithology, which had been monitoring the bird’s movements.

The BTO called in the police, because of “initial uncertainties” over the circumstances surrounding its death. The tag showed it had been flying around the Sandringham area for more than a week beforehand.

Paul Stanicliffe from the trust said: “One of our Goshawks began automatically reporting its position soon after leaving its nest in Thetford Forest on July 23. Over the following few weeks it visited Narborough, Roydon Common and the Sandringham area.

“The bird was reported to BTO by Sandringham Estate as having been found dead on August 9, and the tag was returned intact. Initial uncertainties surrounding the information received, verbally and via the tag, led to an investigation by the police, who concluded that there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the bird’s death.”

Mr Stanicliffe said mortality rates among young goshawks were very high. He added: “High levels of mortality in young birds are a fact of life, and through tracking we can begin to understand just how tenuous the lives of these nomadic young birds may be.”

Norfolk police said: “Norfolk Constabulary are aware of the death of a protected bird of prey on the Sandringham Estate last year, however, a thorough investigation was carried out and no wrongdoing was identified.”

Buckingham Palace said: “Representatives of the Estate provided assistance to both Norfolk Police and the British Trust for Ornithology. We note the findings of the police investigation.”

Goshawks, of which there are thought to be around 400 breeding pairs, are protected by law. Anyone killing one can be fined £5,000.

The probe is the second to be carried out over the deaths of rare birds of prey on or near the Sandringham Estate. In 2007, police were called in to investigate claims two hen harriers were shot close to where Prince Harry and a friend were shooting. The birds’ bodies were never found and police ruled out any wrongdoing.


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