Sunday, 5 November 2017

Report reveals continued persecution of birds of prey in Lancashire

RSPB's Birdcrime report reveals a minimum of 81 confirmed incidents of bird of prey persecution in the UK during 2016.
Despite this, there were no prosecutions for these persecution offences, the first time this has happened in 30 years.
Illegal killing is not only robbing people of the chance to see birds of prey in the UK but has serious consequences for their populations.
The RSPB is calling for police and other enforcing authorities to make full use of all existing powers to protect birds of prey as well as the introduction of a licensing system for driven grouse shooting to ensure shoots are operating legally and sustainably.

Without urgent action some of UK's birds of prey face a bleak future after the latest Birdcrime report revealed 81 confirmed incidents of illegal raptor persecution in 2016, without a single person prosecuted.

Birdcrime 2016 - the only report summarising offences against birds of prey in the UK - revealed 40 shooting, 22 poisoning, 15 trapping and four other incidents of illegal persecution against raptors. Among the victims were hen harriers, peregrine falcons, red kites and buzzards. However, evidence suggests these figures are just the tip of the iceberg with many illegal killings going undetected or unreported.

The report revealed that close to two-thirds (53) of the confirmed incidents took place in England. In Lancashire confirmed incidents included a shot peregrine, a shot kestrel and an illegally trapped peregrine.

People in Lancashire and across the UK have been robbed of the chance to see these spectacular birds because of these illegal incidents, yet there wasn't a single prosecution related to them - the first time this has happened in 30 years.

Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: "Birds of prey bring our skies to life. There is nothing like seeing a diving peregrine or a skydancing hen harrier. The sights of these spectacular birds are something we should all be able to enjoy, unfortunately illegal activity is robbing us of this and preventing them from flourishing. There are laws in place to protect these birds but they are clearly not being put into action. We need governments across the UK to do more to tackle the illegal killing to protect our raptors for future generations to enjoy."

Previous research has shown that illegal killing of birds of prey is associated with land managed for intensive driven grouse shooting, leaving vast areas of our uplands without raptors. A Natural England report revealed 'compelling evidence' that persecution of hen harriers - associated with driven grouse moors - was the main factor limiting their recovery in England [5].

The RSPB believes the introduction of a licensing system for driven grouse shooting would help tackle the ongoing illegal persecution that occurs on these grouse moors. This would also help tackle the wider problems of intensive management of 'big bag' driven grouse shooting, like the draining of and burning on fragile peat bogs. A fair set of rules in the form of a licensing system could help ensure shoots are operating legally and sustainably and introduce the option of restricting or removing a licence in response to the most serious offences, for example where staff on an estate have been convicted of illegally killing birds of prey.

The RSPB welcomes a recent announcement by Scottish Government that will see an independent panel established to review options for regulation of grouse shooting and to look at the economic and environmental costs and benefits of the industry.

Bob Elliot, RSPB Head of Investigations, said: "This latest Birdcrime report continues to highlight that in the UK we have a major issue with birds of prey being deliberately and illegally killed, despite having full legal protection. This type of crime has serious consequences for the populations of species, such as the hen harrier, and we must see a change in attitude and more effective law enforcement to protect these birds for years to come."

For the full copy of Birdcrime 2016 report summarising the extent of illegal persecution offences against birds of prey in the UK, visit

Birdcrime is a unique publication. It is the only centralized source of incident data for wild bird crime in the UK. The RSPB does not record all categories of wild bird crime. Instead we focus on recording crimes that affect the conservation status of species, such as bird of prey persecution and threats to rare breeding birds.

UK breakdown of the 81 confirmed raptor persecution incidents:
40 confirmed shooting incidents
22 confirmed poison abuse incidents
15 confirmed trapping incidents
3 confirmed other persecution incidents
1 confirmed nest destruction incident

Country breakdown of 81 confirmed raptor persecution incidents:
England 53 confirmed incidents (65%)
Wales 13 confirmed incidents (16%)
Scotland 9 confirmed incidents (11%)
Northern Ireland 6 confirmed incidents (7%)
A future for the Hen Harrier in England? A report by Natural England:

All birds of prey have been protected since the 1954 Protection of Birds Act (except for the sparrowhawk which received protection in 1961).

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 is the primary legislation which protects animals, plants and certain habitats in the UK. Under the act all wild birds, their nests and eggs are protected.

Reporting a wildlife crime:

Crimes against wildlife should be reported to the local police via the 101 number. Crimes against wild birds can also be reported to the RSPB online or by calling the RSPB.

If you have any sensitive information about the illegal killing of birds of prey, please report it by calling the RSPB's confidential hotline on 0845 466 3636. Calls to this number are not recorded and will be treated in the strictest confidence.