Female hen harrier

Birdcrime 2016

This year’s Birdcrime report is now available and contains information about crimes and prosecutions in 2016, case studies and focus reports.

Birdcrime 2016

The RSPB's Birdcrime report summarises offences against wild bird legislation which are reported to the RSPB each year. We've published the report annually since 1990. It is the only centralised source of incident data for UK wild bird crime.

Read the report

Golden eagle Aquila chrysaetos adult male sitting in heather, Cairngorms National Park, Scotland

In brief

All birds of prey – also known as raptors – are protected by UK law. Despite this, raptors are still being deliberately killed in our countryside.

The report contains the complete 2016 data on wild bird crime, an interactive map showing raptor persecution incidents in 2016, case studies of shooting, poisoning and trapping incidents and focus reports on hen harriers, North Yorkshire and satellite tagging.

With no real improvement in the problem of raptor persecution over the last 17 years, The RSPB believes the government must do more to tackle this issue. 

But you can also help us stand up to wildlife crime, by using our online reporting form.

Introducing Birdcrime 2016

Head of Investigations, Bob Elliot introduces the 2016 Birdcrime report

Hi, I’m Bob Elliot Head of RSPB Investigations, and I’m here in the Peak District National Park. My team works with police and authorities to help tackle crime against wild birds – an ongoing issue in places like this. Our focus remains firmly on the illegal shooting, poisoning & trapping of birds of prey, which is a UK government wildlife crime priority.


This report contains figures and case studies from 2016 which reveal the extent of the problem.  However these numbers only represent the tip of the iceberg, as most incidents – which take place in quiet and remote locations – simply go undetected. Scientific studies on the status of golden eagles and hen harriers support this. 


Take a look through the report and check out the interactive map to discover incidents that have taken place near you.


Unfortunately, our intelligence shows that the problem of raptor persecution is simply not going away. Incredible, majestic species like golden eagles, peregrine falcons, red kites and hen harriers continue to be deliberately and illegally killed, many of them on sporting estates.

The hen harrier is almost extinct as a breeding species in England. Just three successful nests were recorded in 2016.  In the same year, two birds, which had been fitted with satellite tags, were found to have been shot. Some fourteen other satellite tagged raptors have also ‘disappeared’ in highly suspicious circumstances.



Catching those involved remains incredibly difficult.  Many of you will have seen the recent shocking footage of a hen harrier being shot on the Cabrach estate in Scotland and that no case was put before a court. This is simply not acceptable – everyone needs to see justice being done. 



We urge the UK government to introduce a licensing system to ensure driven grouse shooting estates are operating legally and sustainably. Failure to do so could then result in a loss of license. Of course, law abiding estates would have nothing to fear from this. Encouragingly, Scotland has brought in vicarious liability to make estate owners more responsible for the activities of their staff – however, we need this rolled out across the rest of the UK.


You have a vital role as our eyes and ears in the countryside and I would urge you to report anything suspicious as soon as possible to the police and to the RSPB. I know from personal experience that many of the cases that come to court start with a phonecall from someone like you. 


It’s also the government’s job to fix this problem and we need your help to remind them and ensure they take positive action to save our birds of prey.  Whether you are writing to politicians, attending hen harrier day events or raising concerns on social media – everyone can play a part.  We need to see an end to the killing, and for healthy populations of birds of prey to return to our skies to be enjoyed now and by future generations.