Page last updated at 13:38 GMT, Monday, 28 July 2008 14:38 UK

Big increase in attacks on birds

Seagulls have been the target for most attacks, the RSPB says

The number of birds being attacked and killed in Devon and Cornwall has risen dramatically, according to a report.

The figures from the RSPB's annual "Bird crime" report show the number of attacks against certain birds has more than doubled since 2006.

Victims include swans and swallows, but gulls came off worst, the charity said.

"Gulls are legally protected and it is a crime to wantonly kill or injure them. It is also incredibly cruel," said Sophie Atherton from the RSPB.

"We understand that gulls' behaviour and habits can be annoying to some people, but that is absolutely no excuse for the sort of violent acts that have been committed against these birds.

Devon: 41
Cornwall: 16
Torbay: 1
Total: 58

Earlier this month two nests of herring gull chicks were orphaned after the three adult birds who were illegally shot in the Cornish seaside resort of Newquay.

Meanwhile, police in Devon arrested a 21-year-old man who had been luring gulls by throwing bread, before attempting to shoot them with a BB gun.

The RSPB said there have also been reports of gulls being kicked or beaten to death.

Garden birds like pied wagtails, blackbirds and blue tits have also been hit.

"The statistics and details that have come to light through this report are shocking and disgusting," Ms Atherton added.

The only glimmer of hope is the knowledge that there are many more people out there that love wildlife than the minority that are prepared to destroy it through criminal acts."

'Totally unacceptable'

According to the report the number of crimes committed against birds of prey nationally in 2007 rose by 40%.

However, in the South West attacks against birds of prey are falling.

Ian West, the RSPB's head of investigations, said it was hard to know if the problem across the UK was increasing or more incidents were being reported.

"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," he said.

The RSPB has called on the government to make wildlife crime a higher priority.

Chicks orphaned after shootings
08 Jul 08 |  Cornwall
Hawks fly in to tackle seagulls
18 Apr 07 |  Cornwall

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