Why are birds of prey being killed?
Birds of prey should be free to soar, enriching our lives as well as our ecosystems. But sadly, despite being protected by law, many of these birds are being illegally killed, particularly in upland areas of the UK as a result of the conflict with driven grouse shooting.
There were 87 confirmed incidents of bird of prey persecution recorded in 2018, including the shooting, trapping and poisoning of birds such as hen harriers, red kites, peregrines and owls. Yet there was only one conviction, relating to an offence from 2017.
The Birdcrime report is published annually by the RSPB, as a summary of detected offences against birds of prey (also known as raptors) that have been collated by our Investigations Team. We know, from independent studies of raptor populations, that more incidents will have taken place undetected or unreported, and so the information in this report only scratches the surface.
As well as the RSPB’s own figures, population studies and the government’s own research show that birds of prey are particularly at risk over land managed for driven grouse shooting. On driven grouse moors, red grouse are managed in increasingly large numbers to be shot. Some birds of prey, like hen harriers, will eat red grouse chicks as well as a range of other prey, and so raptors are being systematically and illegally eradicated from these landscapes.
This culture of criminality must end and the RSPB is fighting to protect our precious birds of prey. Obeying the law should not be optional.
To find out about bird crime happening near you, visit our raptor persecution map hub.
I’m Mark Thomas, Head of RSPB Investigations UK.
Raptor persecution continues and so does our fight to end it.
In the UK, incredible birds like peregrines, hen harriers and golden eagles are being illegally shot, trapped and poisoned.
This has been going on for decades and it has to stop.
In 2018 there were 87 confirmed incidents of raptor persecution in the UK.
This film looks back over some of low points from 2018 which really stood out for me and the team.
The year started with this buzzard found poisoned in North Yorkshire.
This barn owl was killed in a trap.
And in April this red kite was shot in the head and blinded.
It was clearly in pain, so sadly had to be put to sleep.
Look at the beautiful wings on this buzzard… it had also been shot.
This peregrine was also shot. It’s quite hard to look at this... what a tragic waste of a life.
This merlin was crushed in a rail trap illegally set on a grouse moor.
This buzzard was shot, but amazingly it survived, but was later killed by poison.
Another red kite... it was shot and poisoned in Nidderdale – possibly the worst area for persecution in England.
In November we filmed this person on a grouse moor, at night, with a gun near three roosting hen harriers.
Then a satellite-tagged hen harrier was found dead on the same grouse moor.
Its body contained two pieces of shot.
The RSPB’s message is clear: this killing must stop. Enough is enough.
If you’re as outraged as we are, you can help the RSPB’s Investigations team by signing up to our bird of prey appeal.
Your support will help us continue to shine a bright light on this very dark issue.