RSPB calls for action as birds of prey continue to be killed

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Illegal persecution of birds of prey is still happening all too regularly in the countryside, including Northumberland, according to the RSPB’s Birdcrime 2015 report.

The charity is asking governments across the UK to take urgent action now.

Female hen harrier in flight

Female hen harrier in flight

The RSPB’s Birdcrime 2015 report reveals 196 reports of shooting and destruction of birds of prey, including the confirmed shooting of 16 buzzards, 11 peregrines, three red kites, one red-footed falcon and one hen harrier.

The report, published online for the first time, also shows 50 reports of wildlife poisoning and pesticide-related offences. Confirmed victims of poisoning include 15 buzzards, four red kites and three peregrine falcons.

These figures represent only a fraction of the illegal persecution in the UK, with many incidents going undetected and unreported.

The North East is one of the worst regions in the UK for bird of prey persecution.

Birdcrime 2015 reveals that there were four confirmed incidents against raptors in Northumberland, including a poisoned buzzard, a shot buzzard and a shot kestrel.

This week, news emerged that a hen harrier has been found dead in Northumberland. Post-mortem evidence indicates that the satellite-tracked bird, named Carroll, had died of natural causes, but was carrying two shotgun pellets, having survived an earlier shooting incident.

The bird was satellite tagged and fledged last summer as part of the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE project and is yet further shocking evidence that birds of prey continue to be illegally targeted.

Despite raptor persecution being identified as one of the UK Government’s top wildlife crime priorities in 2009, the persecution of birds of prey still remains an issue of serious concern with around 590 birds of prey nationally having been confirmed poisoned, shot, trapped or destroyed in the last six years.

Martin Harper, RSPB director of conservation, said: “Our birds of prey are magnificent creatures and the sight of a hen harrier’s dramatic skydancing display flight is simply breathtaking. Everyone should be able to witness this, but sadly millions of people are denied this opportunity. Our uplands are deprived of some amazing wildlife because of ongoing illegal persecution and it has to stop.

“There is growing public support to reform driven grouse shooting. People care deeply about the future of our birds of prey and their concerns must not be ignored.

“The status quo is not an option and we continue to call, throughout the UK, for the introduction of a robust licensing system for driven grouse shooting and an offence of vicarious liability for employers whose staff commit wildlife crime. Change is essential if we are to improve environmental condition of our uplands.”