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
The Glorious 11th! Hen Harrier Day 2019 in pictures
Yesterday I joined the crowds for the sixth Hen Harrier day event at Carsington Water in Derbyshire, organised by Wild Justice with help from Severn Trent Water. It's thought that around 1500 people were there at any one time - the largest number for...Posted 12/08/2019 by Guy Shorrock
Red kite shot and poisoned in 'worst area in England'
North Yorkshire Police have just issued a release appealing for information regarding the killing of a red kite in Nidderdale. Anyone with information about this red kite, or any other incidents in the area, should call the police on 101. The adult r...Posted 08/08/2019 by Jenny Shelton
Our appeal to you: help us help birds of prey
Today (8 August 2019) the RSPB’s Investigations team has launched a new appeal, asking everyone who is concerned about the illegal killing of birds of prey in the UK to become a ‘bird of prey defender’. For as little as £3 per month, supporters can d...Posted 08/08/2019 by Jenny Shelton
Shot hen harrier found on North Yorkshire grouse moor
By Mark Thomas, Head of Investigations, RSPB. Another satellite-tagged hen harrier, found dead on a grouse moor in North Yorkshire, has been confirmed as shot. River being tagged as a chick in 2018 You may remember River, the young female hen harrier...Posted 11/07/2019 by Jenny Shelton