A FARMER has admitted owning a banned pesticide that has killed hundreds of birds in Scotland.

Tom McKellar, 50, pled guilty at Oban Sheriff Court to possessing carbofuran, which is so deadly a single grain can kill a bird while just a quarter of a teaspoon could be fatal to humans.

Officers investigating the discovery of a dead golden eagle found McKellar with the substance in three containers at his property at Bridge of Orchy in Argyll in June 2009. He told police he had used it on meat left out for foxes to eat.

McKellar, who will be sentenced next month, has already been ordered to carry out 300 hours of community service after admitting illegally owning a revolver and a pistol which were also found during the police search.

Defence lawyer David McKie said his client was pleading guilty to possessing the poison in June 2009 but not to killing an eagle.

The solicitor said the dead eagle was not found on land surrounding McKellar's property but on Forestry Commission ground several miles away.

Mr McKie handed a sheaf of glowing testimonials on his client to Sheriff Douglas Small, who conceded they were "brilliant".

But the sheriff said he had to consider all options when sentencing and this was "a serious matter". He deferred sentence till May 29 for background reports.

Afterwards, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds chief investigator in Scotland, Ian Thomson, said: "It is disappointing nobody was charged with killing the eagle. But we are grateful to the police and Crown Office for taking the matter so seriously."

Charles Everitt, of the National Wildlife Crime Unit, said: "To leave unlawful pesticide in open spaces can have disastrous consequences."