A thief is still at large after a number of rare bird eggs were stolen at a Norfolk beach, sparking outrage from a conservation charity.

Eastern Daily Press: Little tern eggs on Sea Palling eachLittle tern eggs on Sea Palling each (Image: Archant)

Last month, up to 20 little tern eggs were snatched in the incident which is believed to have taken place on Winterton beach, between 6pm on Wednesday, June 19 and 7.30am and Thursday June 20.

Little terns are one of the county's rarest breeding seabirds and have suffered serious decline over the past 25 years.

In the early hours of the morning little tern wardens identified human footprints leading up to the nests and discovered a number of eggs had been stolen.

The birds and their eggs are protected on the beach by being kept in a caged area.

Fabian Harrison from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) expressed devastation at the news and called on the community to keep vigilant on egg snatchers.

The 20-year-old said: "It is hard to identify these people - they could just be genuine bird watchers."

"It is so hard - because 99pc of people are fine.

Mr Harrision said the two main reasons people tend to do this is either to create their own collection of eggs or to sell them on the black market.

"Thankfully this sort of thing is dying out and is not as common as it use to be."

According to Mr Harrison, dogs can also be responsible for taking bird eggs but terns will protect the colony.

"We are trying to engage with the community and ensuring we have a nice area where dogs can be off the leads," he said.

Since the little tern eggs were stolen from the beach, the seabird's have abandoned Winterton beach and migrated further up the coast to Eccles - a colony with 24 hour surveillance.

Little terns are a schedule one breeding species, the highest tier of protection for wildlife under UK law.

Anyone who may have witnessed any suspicious behaviour in the area between the times stated, or anyone with information, should contact Sergeant Andy Brown at Great Yarmouth Police Station on 101.