RSPB crime report shows ‘persecution’ of birds of prey

Tawny owl. Pic by Andy Hay (

Tawny owl. Pic by Andy Hay (

© RSPB-IMAGES AND ITS IMAGE CONTRIBUTORS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This image is protected by international copyright laws and dist

The continued “persecution” of the region’s most treasured birds of prey has been highlighted in a wildlife crime report which outlines the illegal shootings, trappings and poisonings reported last year.

The RSPB’s Birdcrime 2011 document rates the East of England as the third highest region for crimes against wild birds, with the charity’s Investigations Unit recording 64 incidents in the region – almost 11pc of the UK total.

In Norfolk, there were 14 reported incidents of bird crime in 2011, six of which were against birds of prey. In Suffolk, there were 12 in total including seven against raptors.

One of the report’s case studies is of a tawny owl discovered by Norfolk Police in May 2011. The bird was caught in an illegal pole trap set on top of one of the posts of a chicken run at Easton, near Norwich. The owl suffered significant injuries as the trap, which has been outlawed for more than a century, had cut through the bird’s skin and flesh down to the bone on both legs.

The person who set the trap was fined £100.

The report outlines a series of 13 recommendations to government ministers which include the introduction of a “vicarious liability” offence which could make landowners more accountable for the criminal actions of their employees.

It also suggests increased penalties for wildlife offences and the need to secure long-term funding for the Police National Wildlife Crime Unit.

RSPB conservation director Martin Harper said the ongoing review of wildlife protection legislation by the Law Commission could also provide a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to tackle the illegal shooting and poisoning of “some of our most magnificent birds”.

He said: “I hope that tougher laws and penalties for wildlife offenders will help consign their crimes to the pages of history where they belong. We need Defra and Home Office ministers to step up for nature and make the right decisions. An essential first step is to secure the future of the National Wildlife Crime Unit, which only has guaranteed funding until March next year.”

The report says the hen harrier is on the brink of extinction as a breeding bird in England, with the government’s own studies suggesting that illegal killing is the major factor in the species’ decline.

It also details 100 reports of wild bird poisoning across the country, although no victims were found in Norfolk and Suffolk.

“It’s been over a hundred years since poisoning of wild birds was outlawed in the UK and yet our report shows we’re still witnessing the slaughter of kites, eagles and buzzards,” said Mr Harper. “Fewer incidents were recorded last year, but as our report highlights birds of prey continue to die at the hands of those who want to remove them from our countryside.

“Thankfully, vastly more people are inspired by the homecoming of eagles, ospreys and peregrines and recognise these charismatic species bring huge enjoyment to people and benefits for tourist economies.”


  • Why is it always about raptors. IMO there are too many of some of them. My bird table keeps getting raided by sparrow hawkes and many of the birds taken are themselves in serious decline. The RSPB don't seem to care about them though because they don't earn them donations which is all that they care about! The Countryside has changed massively since eagles were last here so I say NO TO EAGLES too. Lets get real Betty

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    Sunday, October 7, 2012

  • Increased penalties would be a good idea, and perhaps the RSPB could contribute to the funding of the National Wildlife Crime Unit to help out in these austere times. This story is a tad negative, what about all the successes there have been for local birdlife, I gather someone spotted a new Goshawk near Grimes Graves recently, though sadly it may have been in an rta. I was also lucky enough to see a black kite in East Norfolk, so not everything is going badly at all.

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    john smith

    Friday, October 5, 2012

  • I should add that I in no way condone wildlife crime however. The law is the law. I just feel that the law favours the hook beak that bit too much at the moment to the detriment of everyone and everything else.

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    Sunday, October 7, 2012

  • Not sure why the RSPB, a charity, should be contributing towards the funding of the National WIldlife Crime Unit. Everyone should be speaking out against wildlife crime, not just the RSPB, to make sure the Government and the police take it seriously. It would be interesting to know what the candidates standing for Norfolk Police Commissioner propose to do about wildlife crime. Suspect the remaining independent candidate won't be very sympathetic given the 'Say No to Sea Eagles' signs he had on his land the other year...

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    Betty Swallocks

    Saturday, October 6, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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