Buzzard Buteo buteo, in flight, UK

Raptor Crimewatch

  • 81 confirmed incidents in 2016
  • 0 prosecutions
  • 27% hen harrier decline in last 12 yers
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Birdcrime report brings bad news

It’s worrying news for many of our birds of prey, as Jenny Shelton of the RSPB’s investigations team explains.

The RSPB’s annual Birdcrime report came out in November 2017, and it’s not good news for our birds of prey. Across the UK, birds of prey are being illegally and relentlessly killed, with very little being done by the authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice. This is why your support is so important, and so appreciated.

Peregrine chick

The severe impact of raptor persecution

Birdcrime summarises offences against wild birds (including shooting, trapping and poisoning) that are reported to the RSPB’s investigations team each year. Beautiful birds like peregrines (the fastest birds in the world), red kites (both Shakespeare and Roald Dahl were fans), buzzards (the mewing, soaring eagles of the forest) and hen harriers (one of our rarest raptors) were all subject to illegal persecution in 2016. This is having a severe impact on the conservation status of some species, as well as robbing us of the chance to enjoy seeing them in the wild. 

Red kite Milvus milvus, swooping in to feed on ground, Oxfordshire

"Black holes" for birds of prey

The report details 81 confirmed incidents of raptor persecution. Some offences, as when a hen harrier was seen being shot on a grouse moor in Scotland, were even caught on camera. But, incredibly, nobody was prosecuted for raptor persecution offences in 2016.

Yorkshire readers will be sad to learn that North Yorkshire is identified as a particular “black hole” for birds of prey, with 19 incidents occurring here – the highest number of any UK county. 

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

How you can help

Illegal persecution has been cited as a major cause in the decline of hen harriers and golden eagles. Only three hen harrier nests fledged young in England this year, despite habitat for over 300 pairs. This makes their survival as a breeding bird in England very precarious indeed. We strongly hope that, when this report lands on the desks of MPs and decision-makers, it will persuade them to do more to protect our UK wildlife. And the more of you that talk about it, share your outrage on social media and get in touch with your local MPs, the more chance we have of changing attitudes and stopping this runaway train.

Scientists tag a hen harrier chick

Urgent action needed

Bob Elliot, RSPB Head of Investigations, said: “Seeing a buzzard or red kite soaring overhead can lift hearts and give us a powerful connection to the wild. There are laws in place to protect these birds, but they are clearly not working. We need the government to crack down on criminality and put a stop to illegal killing.

“Sadly, we believe our figures are just the tip of the iceberg. If these are just the incidents we know about, imagine how many more birds are being killed that we don’t know about? Many of these crimes take place in remote, rural locations making detecting them incredibly difficult, and population studies show that birds are absent in places where they should be flourishing.

Urgent action is needed to put a stop to this worrying trend. The RSPB is calling for improved law enforcement to protect birds of prey as well as the introduction of a licensing system for driven grouse shooting.”

Hen harrier Circus cyaneus, female in flight against blue sky, Geltsdale, Cumbria

Thank you for your generous support

As you can see, there is still so much more to be done, to ensure current legislation is enforced

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And to protect the UK’s beautiful, soaring birds of prey against further persecution