Despite legal protection, every year the RSPB receives over 500 reports of wild bird crime, with many more reported to the police and other agencies.
The RSPB's Investigations Section's main role is to support the statutory authorities by providing advice, expert witness and investigative help on wild bird crime.
It works closely with the police Wildlife Crime Officers (WCOs), the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Procurators Fiscal and HM Revenue and Customs. The RSPB has not taken a private prosecution since 1992.
The RSPB actively supports the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) by chairing the Publicity Sub-group and sitting on the Forensic Working Group
The RSPB Investigations Section has been involved in a range of issues to improve wildlife law enforcement and has had many successes, for example:
- Creation of the police WCO network. The Section had a major input into the development and subsequent success of this network.
- Organising the police WCO annual conference. The Section organised the WCO conference every year since its inception in 1989 until handing it over to the police and Defra in 1997.
- Maintaining a unique wild bird crime database.
- Taking the first case involving DNA genetic fingerprinting of birds. In 1991 the RSPB used a commercial laboratory for DNA testing to prove a genetic link did not exist between four young goshawks and a captive adult female claimed to be their parent. Since then DNA testing has become established as an important tool in the investigation of wild bird offences.
- Production of Legal Eagle, a quarterly newsletter for police WCOs and others involved in wild bird law enforcement.
- Production of Birdcrime, an annual report that monitors trends in wild bird crime and highlights major issues of concern. This is the only national record of wild bird offences in the UK.
- Working in Europe. The Section was instrumental in forming the Eurogroup Against Bird Crime, which is a network of organisations across Europe that works to improve wild bird legislation enforcement, particularly in cases of cross-border offences.
How you can help
Have you seen a crime against a wild bird? Use this form to report a wildlife crime to us.
Our latest investigations
Another hen harrier disappears, last reported on Yorkshire grouse moor
We have just issued the following release: The RSPB is once again urging the Government to step in and support licensing of grouse shooting to address the illegal persecution of birds of prey following the suspicious disappearance of yet another sate...Posted 15/09/2020 by Jenny Shelton
Through RSPB binoculars – our summary of the 2020 hen harrier season in England
By Mark Thomas, Head of Investigations UK On 3 September Natural England (NE) and Defra announced ‘A record-breaking year for hen harrier breeding’ stating that 60 chicks had fledged from 19 nests across Northumberland, Yorkshire Dales, Cumbria and L...Posted 11/09/2020 by Jenny Shelton
Chicks rescued from egg collection
The RSPB has just issued the following release: Three golden plover chicks and one curlew chick are getting a second chance at life after being found, as eggs, in a property in Huddersfield. Two of the golden plovers, credit Jack Ashton-Booth In Apri...Posted 06/08/2020 by Jenny Shelton
Another red kite vanishes in suspicious circumstances in problem area
Yesterday the RSPB issued the following release: Two red kites and one hen harrier – one of England’s rarest breeding birds – have vanished suddenly and unexpectedly in the same area of the North Pennines AONB since last October. BB (centre) being ta...Posted 05/08/2020 by Jenny Shelton