Illegal shooting of birds of prey
Unfortunately, the shooting of birds or prey is still widespread despite all raptor species being fully protected by law throughout the year. Shooting raptors with shotguns is the most common means of illegal shooting. However, numerous cases have also become known in which birds of prey were killed with air-rifles and in some cases even with single bullets.
With a shotgun blast the external injuries are only noticeable if the bird was hit from close range or not visible at all. The impact points are very small and there is usually hardly any blood. Characteristic damages in the feathers can offer a first hint. To confirm detection of gun shot or larger projectiles in a bird's body is best achieved by taking an X-ray image. This can be done in most veterinary practices or by the government veterinary laboratory agency.
When shot with large calibre weapons, it's possible that the projectiles penetrate the bird's body and exit so no complete projectiles can be detected. In this case, an entrance and an exit opening would give first hints. Often the lead abrasion of the bullets in the range of the firing channel can be proven on an x-ray picture even when no actual shot is present.
Birds shot with lead pellets (here: Hen Harrier) doesn´t necessarily show obvious shotgun wounds
Typical airgun ammunition with ´mushroom shape`
Birds shot with a bullet (here: Common Buzzard) have obvious shotgun wounds