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
Marsh harrier found illegally shot
Locals and conservationists are raising the alarm after a rare and protected bird of prey was found shot near Barton-Upon-Humber, North Lincolnshire. The bird – a marsh harrier – was discovered by a woman walking her dog along the bank of the River H...Posted 08/01/2019 by Jenny Shelton
An Investigations review of the year
Police arresting gamekeeper Tim Cowin on Whernside Moor Yesterday we blogged about a buzzard that was shot in Northamptonshire – a sad end to another rollercoaster year in the fight against raptor persecution. We never know what each year will bring;...Posted 20/12/2018 by Jenny Shelton
Buzzard shot in Northamptonshire
A buzzard found shot in Northamptonshire is the latest victim on this year’s list of birds that won’t see in the New Year. The bird was found injured but alive in Sywell Country Park, Northamptonshire. A Park Ranger reported it to the police and the ...Posted 19/12/2018 by Jenny Shelton
The Illegal Killing of Birds of Prey in Scotland 2015-17
Scotland’s laws are failing to adequately protect birds of prey, as a new report highlights. Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations, explains why those in power must act now to end illegal persecution. Scotland’s birds of prey are an int...Posted 14/12/2018 by Jenny Shelton