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Scanning electron microscopy and energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDX) confirms shooting of a hen harrier (Circus cyaneus)
  1. Timothy Charles Hopkins1,
  2. Gabriela Peniche1,
  3. Stephen Murphy2,
  4. Ian Carter3,
  5. Guy Shorrock4,
  6. Stuart Kearns5,
  7. Gordon Blunn6,
  8. Allen Goodship6 and
  9. Anthony W Sainsbury1
  1. 1Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, London, UK
  2. 2Natural England, Manchester, UK
  3. 3Natural England, Peterborough, UK
  4. 4Department of Investigations, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Sandy, UK
  5. 5School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol UK
  6. 6Institute of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Science, University College London, Stanmore, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Timothy Charles Hopkins, timothycharleshopkins{at}


The hen harrier (Circus cyaneus) remains severely restricted as a breeding species in England despite sufficient habitat for over 300 breeding pairs. Human persecution is the main limiting factor and in the UK, there have been 45 confirmed incidents of shooting of hen harriers since records began (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds unpublished data). The authors report the pathological examination of a hen harrier, the detection of suspected ballistic fragments by radiograph and explain how scanning electron microscopy and energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDX) was used to confirm (i) the composition of one ballistic remnant and (ii) that the remnant had been projected into and had damaged the bone. The authors report the use of post-analysis software to discriminate apparent anomalies produced by the proprietary SEM-EDX software package and discuss broader uses of SEM-EDX for wildlife crime investigation.

  • Wildlife
  • Trauma
  • Conservation medicine
  • Imaging
  • Forensic medicine
  • Wild birds
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