Rare red-footed falcon which had been spotted by thousands of birdwatchers is shot dead

Rare red-footed falcon found shot dead in Cambridgeshire. Photo taken by RSPB Investigations

Rare red-footed falcon found shot dead in Cambridgeshire. Photo taken by RSPB Investigations - Credit: Archant

A rare red-footed falcon has been found shot dead near Whittlesey in Cambridgeshire.

Cambridgeshire Police, the National Wildlife Crime Unit and the RSPB are appealing for anyone with information about the shooting of the protected bird to come forward.

The wildlife charity is offering a reward of £1,000 for information.

Cambridgeshire Constabulary Wildlife Crime Officer Alun Bradshaw said: 'It's awful that this rare bird has been needlessly and cowardly shot in the county.

'We take these matters seriously and are asking for anyone with information to contact us or Crimestoppers.'

RSPB experts have also been able to confirm that the shot red-footed falcon is the same bird that birdwatchers and nature lovers in the Midlands and East of England had delighted in seeing since it was first spotted in Stoke, Staffordshire in July this year.

Red-footed falcons are rare visitors to the UK from the nearest breeding population in Eastern Europe, from where they migrate to Sub-Saharan Africa to spend the winter. They are listed as 'Near Threatened' on the IUCN's Red List of Endangered Species.

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RSPB senior investigations officer Mark Thomas said: 'The death of this beautiful and rare bird is sickening, it has spent nearly three months touring the UK and delighting thousands of people only to be shot dead in Cambridgeshire.'

'I only hope that someone who knows something about the circumstances in which this bird was killed will share any information they have to help the police in their investigation.'

•Anyone with any information is urged to contact Cambridgeshire Police on 101 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111