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Killing our birds


September 2018

A bird in flight
Photo by Guy Shorrock

At this time of year it is sad to see the line up of swallows, martins and other birds as they take off for warmer climates. What is good though is that many of our favourite birds will remain in the UK over winter, so that we can enjoy their company and watch their funny antics.

So a new report just released by the RSPB makes for really shocking reading. It reports that from statistics put together for 2017, 68 birds of prey were killed intentionally and many more illegal killings also took place. 

The report showed there were 48 birds shot, 9 poisoned, 3 trapped, 4 destroyed in the nest and 4 other incidents were the perpetrators were caught and prosecuted. Birds killed included common species such as red kites and buzzards as well as rare species such as hen and marsh harriers, peregrine falcons and even short-eared owls.

However the RSPB say this is only the tip of the iceberg with many illegal killings going undetected or unreported.

Interestingly, more than three quarters (55) of the confirmed incidents took place in England. However, incidents weren’t confined to England, with the report highlighting confirmed case in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

This is a disturbing trend especially as it is putting the survival of some species at risk.

Bob Elliot, RSPB Head of Investigations, said: “The persecution of birds of prey is a widespread problem in the UK, and is affecting some of our most loved and vulnerable species, like owls and eagles. Every week the RSPB’s Investigations team get reports of yet another raptor being shot, trapped or poisoned.”

Mr Elliot says that for every report they receive, scientific studies suggest there are many more that go undetected and unreported. As such, these figures only scratch the surface of the true extent of raptor persecution in the UK.

Some research has shown that the illegal killing of birds of prey is associated with the land managed for intensive driven grouse shooting. A study by Natural England states there is compelling evidence that the persecution of hen harriers is associated with driven grouse moors and this was limited the birds’ recovery.

The RSPB says that governments need to do far more to create a climate of accountability and while there has been some steady progress in Scotland, elsewhere far more needs to be done.

The organization have now launched a Raptor Persecution Map Hub. It shows that incidents have been reported right across the UK and makes for interesting viewing.

Bird crime is not only against our large birds of prey…incidents have been reported against a variety of British birds. The good news is that it is now easier than ever to report any anti-bird activities you may be aware of.

There are two key telephone numbers to talk to the RSPB Investigations Section:
In the UK 01767
In Scotland 0131 3174100
Or you can email

The RSPB Investigations Section is really experienced in speaking to people with sensitive information and callers can remain anonymous if they choose.


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