Page last updated at 08:23 GMT, Tuesday, 22 April 2008 09:23 UK

High death toll of birds of prey

Hen harrier
Species most at risk include hen harriers and eagles

National parks in North Yorkshire have one of the worst records for birds of prey being killed illegally, a leading wildlife charity has reported.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said birds were being killed in the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales.

The charity said it blamed gamekeepers and people who shoot for sport for "wiping out iconic species".

A campaign has been started to try to protect birds of prey.

The Peak District and country estates were also reported as areas where high numbers of birds are being killed.

'Callous few'

According to the charity, those species most are risk are eagles, peregrine falcons and hen harriers, which nest in upland areas which are prime sites for grouse shooting.

RSPB conservation director Dr Mark Avery said: "Visitors to the Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors national parks would rightly expect to see a diversity of birds of prey, but our initial evidence shows these birds are being targeted before the birds can establish themselves.

"The skies are owned by no one, but a callous few want to deprive the nation of some of our most charismatic wildlife.

"This year we are calling on upland shooting estates to allow birds of prey to nest successfully."

Dorothy Fairburn, from the Country Landowners' Association, said she shared the RSPB's concerns but questioned the accuracy of the numbers.

She said: "Areas of grouse moors are particularly good for upland waders and lots of other birds and so they get much more interest taken in them by RSPB members."

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