Wind turbines have killed more birds of prey in Scotland this year, including a rare white tailed sea eagle, than deliberate poisoning or shooting, an official report has revealed.
Four raptors were killed by turbines between January and June and a fifth bird, a golden eagle, was electrocuted by a power line. Over the same period, two birds were confirmed to have been poisoned or shot.
The Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association (SGA) said the figures showed their members were being judged “guilty until proven innocent”.
The SGA suggested conservationist groups including the RSPB should now demand that the wind farm industry be held to account for raptor deaths.
The numbers were revealed in an interim report published from the Scottish Government-funded Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme.
It reveals that in January a buzzard was found dead, with a wing missing, under a turbine in the Western Isles. The eagle was also found dead in the Western Isles.
In February, a sea eagle was found dead under a wind turbine in Tayside. A post mortem examination found several broken bones, but no evidence it died from poisoning.
A kestrel was found dead the same month below another turbine in Tayside while in June an osprey was found dead under a turbine in the Grampian area.
The same report states that two peregrine falcons were killed illegally. One was found in Central Scotland and appeared to have been shot. The second bird was found in Strathclyde in February and a veterinary drug was found in its tissues.
Sea eagles are Britain’s biggest raptors and have been the subject of a long-running reintroduction programme in Scotland.
In May, the RSPB claimed landowners should face jail terms of up to six months if illegally poisoned birds were found on their land.
They made the call after it was reported that 22 birds of prey had been found poisoned near Conon Bridge, Ross Shire. The figure was later reduced to 16 red kites, and earlier this week police admitted the killings were probably an unintentional side effect of pest control measures.
A spokesman for the SGA said the report revealed the truth behind the “prejudice” aimed at landowners and farmers which painted the shooting industry as “guilty until proven innocent.”
He added: “It is important the public can understand for themselves the true picture regarding wildlife crime.
“After the appalling finger pointing at the shooting and farming industries following Conon Bridge this year by the highly politicised conservation movement, we will be interested to see if those groups now call for the same licensing measures against the government-backed wind farm industry.”
An investigation into the illegal killing of six buzzards in Aberdeenshire was abandoned this month after police DNA-tested and fingerprinted farmers over carcases that later turned out were probably hens.
Ian Thomson, of RSPB Scotland, said: “The Scottish Government recently published its wildlife crime report for 2013. This listed 23 birds of prey as being victims of crime, including poisoning, shooting and trapping.
“Most commentators accept that this figure represents the “tip of the iceberg” as offenders will attempt to cover up evidence that they had committed a crime, by disposal of bodies etc. It is clear from a huge weight of peer-reviewed scientific evidence that wildlife crime continues to constrain the population and range of a number of bird of prey species in Scotland, notably hen harrier, golden eagle and red kite.”
Last week, the government said levels of wildlife crime in Scotland had remained relatively “static” over the last five years.