Dozens of buzzards, red kites and other protected species of birds of prey are being illegally shot, poisoned or trapped in the UK, conservationists have said.
The RSPB’s annual bird crime report found there were 108 confirmed incidents of bird of prey persecution in the UK in 2021, with 80 in England – the second highest year for the country after a surge of cases in 2020.
The confirmed incidents included 41 shootings or attempted shootings, 32 poisonings and 18 trapping incidents.
A total of 91 birds of prey were affected, including 50 buzzards, 16 red kites, seven peregrines and three goshawks, as well as a hen harrier, white-tailed eagle, golden eagle, two sparrowhawks and a number of different owls.
The RSPB warned that annual totals in the report are only the tip of the iceberg and many killings of birds of prey go undetected and unreported.
All birds of prey are protected by law but they can be at risk from illegal persecution, including from some involved in gamebird shooting who see them as a threat to stocks of pheasants, partridge or grouse shot for sport, the charity said.
Norfolk and Dorset – two lowlands areas dominated by pheasant and partridge shoots – recorded the highest number of incidents, with 13 and 12 respectively.
The bird crime 2021 report also warned there has been a surge in detection of rat poison brodifacoum in birds of prey at well beyond lethal levels, suggesting the chemical is being misused to deliberately target birds but is also posing a threat to wildlife, pets and the environment.
A rare white-tailed eagle, part of a release scheme on the Isle of Wight to bring back the once-extinct birds of prey to England, was discovered in Dorset with seven times the lethal dose of brodifacoum, the RSPB said.
Mark Thomas, RSPB head of investigations UK, said: “The data in this report clearly show that raptor persecution remains at a sustained high level, especially in England, with over two thirds of the incidents connected to land managed for gamebird shooting.”
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He added: “The illegal shooting, trapping and poisoning of birds of prey has no place in modern society.
“In a nature and climate emergency, the deliberate destruction of protected species for financial gain is completely devastating and unacceptable.”