Rare marsh harrier illegally shot

Chris Collett

Friday 11 January 2019

  • The bird was found alive but later died from its injuries – which included a piece of shot lodged in its wing.
  • There are just 400 pairs of marsh harriers in the UK, making them one of our rarest breeding birds.
  • This latest incident raises concerns that birds of prey are being deliberately targeted in the area.


Locals and conservationists are raising the alarm after a rare and protected bird of prey was found shot near Barton-Upon-Humber.

The bird – a marsh harrier – was discovered by a woman walking her dog along the bank of the River Humber on 9 September. She reported it to the RSPCA and the police were alerted. An RSPCA officer collected the bird and took it to the East Winch Wildlife Centre near Boston. An X-ray revealed that the bird had been shot, and it later died of its injuries.

Humberside Police investigated the incident but it was not possible to identify the culprit.

Marsh harriers are large birds of prey which went extinct as a UK breeding species at the turn of the last century due to habitat loss and persecution. After the pesticide DDT was banned in 1972, pairs began to return to Eastern England. Now they can often be seen hunting over marshland areas including the Humber Estuary, which has become a favourite breeding spot.

Like all birds of prey, marsh harriers are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail. Marsh harriers are also on the ‘amber’ list of species of conservation concern.

Jenny Shelton, Investigations Liaison Officer at the RSPB, said: “To hear of any bird being deliberately shot is devastating, but when it’s a species as vulnerable as a marsh harrier this gives even more cause for concern.

“Marsh harriers are spectacular birds which bring many people great joy. Females are dark brown with creamy-golden heads, and males are a stunning combination of silver-grey and chestnut. Many people think you need to trek up mountains to see birds of prey, but these raptors favour lowland areas and are easy to see if you know where to look.

“Although the incident happened last year, all police enquiries have drawn a blank and now we are appealing to you, the public, to help. Please call the police on 101 or the Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101.”

The shooting of this bird follows the poisoning of a marsh harrier near the Humber in 2012, which raises concerns that birds of prey are being deliberately targeted in this area.

Local resident Mike Pinnock, who set up The Village Conservancy to protect local wildlife, said: “Having marsh harriers on our doorstep in North Lincolnshire is a real privilege; 40 years ago, seeing one of these majestic birds hunting over the fields around our village would have been unimaginable.

“Understandably people have been shocked and angered by the shooting. We enjoy good relationships with farmers and the local game keeper - we know they care a lot about wildlife in and around the village. So not only did the person that shot this bird act recklessly and illegally, they also risked damaging other people’s reputations.

“Our local Wildlife Crime Officer Neil Stovin has been excellent and has made time to investigate the shooting.  If nothing else, we hope that the death of this iconic bird will serve to remind people that raptor persecution isn’t just something that’s going on in remote grouse moors - it’s something that’s happening in our own communities.”

If you have any information relating to this incident, call Humberside Police on 101 quoting crime reference number 16/115793/18.

If you find a wild bird of prey which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB investigations on 01767 680551 or fill in the online form: https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/our-positions-and-campaigns/positions/wildbirdslaw/reportform.aspx

Tagged with: Topic: Marsh harrier Topic: Birds of prey