One of Ireland’s rarest birds of prey has been shot dead in Co Kerry.

The hen harrier was discovered on isolated ground earlier this month and tests confirmed that she had been shot.

There are just over 100 breeding pairs of hen harriers in Ireland and as a protected species it is an offence under the Wildlife Act to kill them.

Hen Harriers are extremely rare and the European population is considered as depleted.

Their numbers have been in decline due to persecution and loss of habitat.

The female harrier shot in Co Kerry had been satellite tagged as part of a joint community awareness project between a rural development company in Duhallow in Co Cork and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Over the past three years she had been followed by thousands of people worldwide.

Dr Barry O'Donoghue of the NPWS oversaw the satellite-tracking project.

He said that the team had been hopeful that this particular bird may have returned to Kerry to breed this year, and her killing was heart breaking.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service and gardaí are investigating the incident.