Scale of Bird of Prey poisoning revealed

Hen Harriers have been targeted by poachers

Hen Harriers have been targeted by poachers

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SCORES of birds of prey, including golden and white tailed eagles, hen harriers and red kites, were shot or poisoned last year, a report shows.

Naturalist and TV presenter Bill Oddie called on shooting industry leaders to help stamp out the illegal killing of birds of prey as the RSPB’s annual Birdcrime report revealed that there were 164 reports of shooting and destruction of birds of prey in 2013.

There were also 74 reported incidents of poisoning, the report showed, but the RSPB warned that reported incidents were believed to represent only a fraction of the illegal persecution of birds.

They include the confirmed shooting of two hen harriers, two marsh harriers, five peregrines and 28 buzzards. Confirmed incidents of poisoning include that of 30 buzzards, 20 red kites, a golden eagle and a white-tailed eagle.

In Scotland there were 67 incidents reported concerning birds of prey, in Wales 37 and in Northern Ireland 21 while in England there were a total of 213 reported incidents against birds of prey, including 82 in northern England.

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Mr Oddie, who is vice-president of the RSPB, said: “Year after year the Birdcrime report shows that illegal persecution of birds of prey is still a huge problem in the UK.

“It is a topic that I have felt incensed by all my life as the killing goes on and on. We’re losing hundreds of our most magnificent birds each year because of the mindless and senseless slaughter by a minority group, and it needs to stop.

“I believe it is up to those figures within the shooting industry to help stamp out the killing of birds of prey, once and for all.”

Martin Harper, RSPB conservation director, said: “Witnessing a hen harrier’s dramatic skydancing display flight, or seeing the world’s fasted animal in action as a peregrine stoops over the moors is enough to take your breath away.

“These are sights that we should all be able to enjoy. Unfortunately we are being robbed of the chance to see these beautiful birds flourish because of illegal persecution.”

The RSPB said illegal persecution was associated with grouse moors, where birds of prey are targeted to protect grouse shooting, and called on members of the shooting community to address the problem.

The conservation charity also said that with shooters paying around £2,000 to £3,000 a day for shooting, the fines and other punishments being handed out for persecution did not form a meaningful deterrent for those in charge of grouse moors.

Licensing shoots and withdrawing the right of estates to provide shooting for a fixed period following convictions could provide the deterrent to stop illegal killing of birds of prey, the RSPB suggested.

Making employers responsible for the wildlife crimes committed by their gamekeepers could also tackle the problem, the charity said.

The Birdcrime report also said there were 14 reported incidents of egg collecting and egg thefts and two of egg sales, down on the previous year’s figure for collecting and sales of 31 and well below the five year average of 51.

But incidents included the theft of more than 50 clutches of little tern eggs from Crimdon Beach, County Durham, an important colony for a species that is declining nationally, the report said.

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