A north estate has condemned the illegal killing of a red kite which was part of a breeding programme on their land.
The bird was found three miles south-east of Cawdor in September last year. A post-mortem examination revealed that it was killed with a banned pesticide.
It was part of a successful breeding pair bred at Cawdor Castle in 2014, marking the first record of red kites being bred in Nairnshire for more than a century.
The death, and that of a second red kite at Beauly in June, were withheld from the public until the police concluded their investigation.
However spokesman for Cawdor Estate said the dead kite was found outwith their land.
He said: “The Cawdor Estate was not aware of an alleged poisoning of a red kite, found in woodland in the area close to Cawdor, until we saw an RSPB press release yesterday.
“As we received no contact from Police Scotland nor the RSPB at the time of the discovery of the bird in 2014 nor since, we have no reason to believe this was found on Cawdor Estate land.
“Any illegal persecution of protected species such as the red kite is absolutely abhorrent and we strongly condemn anyone found guilty of such an act.
“Nevertheless, we regret that the RSPB press release has adopted an entirely negative slant by omitting to mention the fact that another breeding female arrived at the nest in woodland close to Cawdor Castle and has fledged three chicks.”