Page last updated at 01:13 GMT, Sunday, 27 July 2008 02:13 UK

Attacks on birds of prey 'up 40%'

Red kite
Some 17 cases of poisoning of the rare red kite were recorded

The number of crimes reported against birds of prey rose by 40% last year to a record level, the RSPB has said.

The bird welfare charity recorded 262 attacks in 2007, up from 185, including 34 shootings and 49 poisonings.

Crimes against all wild birds also hit a record high with 1,208 incidents reported to the RSPB, up from 1,109.

It said the rise may be down to better sharing of information with other agencies but believes many crimes go undetected in remote areas.

Eggs collected

The birds of prey poisoned included 17 red kites and one half of the only breeding pair of golden eagles in the Scottish Borders.

Birds of prey in the wild

The RSPB's annual Birdcrime report also revealed:

  • 619 reports of birds other than birds of prey being shot or the victims of destruction
  • 39 egg-collecting incidents, including two confirmed and four probable from protected birds
  • 165 reports of poisoning

The report said protected birds were also illegally disturbed and photographed, while other crimes included the theft, possession and sale of wild birds.

It urged the Home Office to make it clear to police forces that wildlife crime should be given a higher priority and called for measures to tackle it to be written into forces' policing plans.

Poisoned golden eagle
A breeding female golden eagle was poisoned in the Scottish Borders

Data from the report identifies four counties that were the worst in England for reported persecution of birds of prey.

They were North Yorkshire, with 78 reports, Northumberland with 22 and Shropshire and Cumbria with 16 reports each.

RSPB head of investigations Ian West said: "The number of reports coming in to us is the highest we have ever had, but we are still only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

"It's hard to say whether the problem is increasing or whether we are just getting to hear about more of the offences that are taking place.

"What is clear is that very large numbers of birds are being illegally killed every year and that is totally unacceptable in a civilised society. There has to be a greater effort to enforce the law."

There was worldwide condemnation after the 10-year-old female golden eagle was poisoned in Peeblesshire last August.

The male eagle has since found a new partner and a chick hatched earlier this year.

Report finds golden eagle decline
01 Jul 08 |  Highlands and Islands
New partner found by golden eagle
30 Jun 08 |  South of Scotland
Action demanded on bird predators
06 May 08 |  Scotland

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