Scotland: Gamekeeper guilty of shooting Sparrowhawk on grouse moor

On 31 March 2023 Rory Parker (24), pleaded guilty to shooting a Sparrowhawk whilst employed as a gamekeeper on the notorious Moy Estate, Inverness – becoming the 56th gamekeeper to be convicted of raptor persecution offences in Scotland since 1990.

As their name suggests, Sparrowhawks are one of the UK’s smallest birds of prey and typically hunt by catching small birds in flight. Even a large female is only around half the weight of a Red Grouse.

The conviction at Inverness Sheriff’s Court was secured after the shooting was directly filmed by RSPB Scotland Investigations staff in September 2021. Footage shows the Sparrowhawk circling overhead before a gun is raised by Parker and the bird is shot out of the sky (the video of the shooting can be downloaded at

Parker was recorded hiding on the grouse moor close to a plastic ‘decoy’ owl, which can be seen in the video close to the gamekeeper’s position. Plastic owls (and live, tethered Eagle Owls) have been used on other shooting states to illegally attract birds of prey which will often mob what they assume to be an intruder on their territory, allowing a criminal gamekeeper to get close to an otherwise very wary bird of prey.

Parker’s manner in the video appears to suggest that as far as he was concerned (and despite what his very expensive counsel tried to suggest) this wildlife crime was premeditated and nothing out of the ordinary for him.

A search led by Police Scotland of Parker’s address and land on the Moy Estate took place on 19 September 2021 when Parker was arrested and interviewed.

Despite the seriousness of the crime Parker was fined a paltry £1,575 and given three months in which to pay it.

Ian Thomson, 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 & Environmental Crime Unit of COPFS.

“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”.


Grouse moors – no strangers to wildlife crime

In August last year, the Moy Estate lost an appeal against a General Licence restriction imposed on it for wildlife crime, including the discovery of a poisoned Red Kite in 2020 and ‘incidents in relation to trapping offences’.

This conviction comes just days after a Red Kite was witnessed being shot on a grouse moor on Lochindorb estate near Grantown-on-Spey and another Red Kite was found grounded on a grouse moor in part of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which is dominated by grouse shoots and a known raptor persecution hotspot.

Without exception, all species of birds of prey are fully protected by law, a fact that the shooting industry seems disinclined to take any notice of.

As we have detailed on Protect the Wild previously, the RSPB’s Birdcrime report for 2021 found that over two-thirds of confirmed raptor persecution incidents were in relation to land managed for bird shooting. And as we have stated many times it is not up to the shooting industry to decide which birds of prey get to live or die, or where these incredibly well-adapted birds are ‘allowed’ to survive.


  • Featured image male Sparrowhawk/Shutterstock