I’m being lazy today and sharing a disturbing report from the RSPB’s Investigations Team.

I make no apologies for this as I am sickened by the rising crimes against our birds of prey. Living on the edge of Bowland makes me acutely aware of these as this area has had more than enough incidents. A few years ago Hen Harriers were a relatively common sight if you knew where to look and now they have been virtually wiped out. 

As we possibly make a slow return to the hills our observations of the wildlife, positive and negative, will be important. As Superintendant Lyall says at the bottom of this report  –  If you have any information about birds of prey being killed in your area, call the police on 101 or the RSPB’s confidential Raptor Crime Hotline: 0300 999 0101. 


The RSPB has received a surge in reports of birds of prey being illegally killed since lockdown began.

The majority of incidents have been on or close to sporting estates managed for game bird shooting.

The public are being asked to stay vigilant and report crimes against birds of prey.

The RSPB’s Investigations Unit has been ‘overrun’ with reports of birds of prey being illegally killed in recent weeks. 

Species involved in raptor crime incidents since lockdown began in March 2020

Police have been called out to investigate multiple cases involving the shooting, trapping and suspected poisoning of birds of prey following reports by the public.  

The RSPB is currently aware of many confirmed incidents involving the targeting of birds of prey involving hen harriers, peregrines, buzzards, red kites, goshawks and a barn owl in the last six weeks. Amongst the cases being dealt with by the police are a number of significant ongoing investigations on land managed for grouse shooting.  

On 29 March a buzzard was found shot at Shipton, near York. Its wing was fractured in two places and an x-ray revealed several pieces of shot within the bird’s body. Thanks to the care of a local wildlife expert the buzzard recovered and was released.  

Over the Easter Weekend, a red kite was found shot dead near Leeds. It had 12 shotgun pellets lodged in its body.  

The following weekend, wildlife presenter Iolo Williams recovered a dead red kite in Powys, which had been shot. Reports also came in of a further two shot red kites in the area, which is managed for pheasant shooting. 

Red kite shot in Wales

And in Scotland, the police are following up several raptor persecution cases and multiple reports of illegal trap use on grouse moors. 

All birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To intentionally kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail.  

Mark Thomas, RSPB Head of Investigations UK, said:  

“Since lockdown began, the RSPB has been overrun with reports of birds of prey being targeted. It is clear that criminals on some sporting estates both in the uplands and lowlands have used the wider closure of the countryside as an opportunity to ramp up their efforts to kill birds of prey. 

“Spring is the time when birds of prey are most visible and therefore vulnerable, as they put on courtship displays, build nests and find food ready to breed. It is clear the criminal actions are targeted and malicious in nature, taking out birds before they have the opportunity to breed, often in areas where they have previously faced persecution. 

“We welcome the fact that the public is remaining vigilant and encourage any suspicious incidents to be reported. But please observe government guidelines at all times.” 

Superintendent Nick Lyall, head of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group, said:  

“Over recent weeks, I have been sickened by the number of raptor persecution cases that have come to my attention as chair of the Raptor Persecution Delivery Group. I know that there are officers currently investigating a number of crimes against wild birds of prey which have occurred since lockdown began. 

“It is clear that lockdown has been seen as a green light by those involved in raptor persecution offences to continue committing crimes, presumably in the belief that there are fewer people around to catch them doing so.  

“I remain grateful to everyone involved in investigating these crimes, and thankfully in the vast majority of the cases I am aware of, it looks like some really good lines of enquiry are taking place which should lead to arrests and interviews.”  

If you have any information about birds of prey being killed in your area, call the police on 101 or the RSPB’s confidential Raptor Crime Hotline: 0300 999 0101. 


    1. bowlandclimber

      There is a conflict of interests on our grouse moors between the shooters and the conservationists. I know which side I’m on.
      Unfortunately very few of these crimes are taken to prosecution for various reasons.
      Hunting is part of the United States psychi also, or at least for some of the citizens. I don’t want to cause offence.

  1. John Bainbridge

    We were planning to blog this over the weekend and will. So important. One of the problems of people being away from the countryside is they thought no one would be watching.

  2. 5000milewalk

    Hiya BC. This “sport” needs to be made illegal, like fox-hunting. The government has allowed the Gamekeepers to police themselves, and it is quite clear now that they are entirely incapable of doing it. I think the only way for it to be effectively policed is to outlaw game shooting entirely.
    This story, combined with those previous reports a couple of months back of millions of birds being imported to be blown out of the skies should be enough. I bet if there was a public vote on it, with the public being suitably educated with FACTS, fairly from both sides of the argument, there would be a large majority in favour of a ban, just like the 2:1 ratio in favour of retaining the foxhunting ban. Perhaps we should be writing to our MPs…. you never know.

    1. bowlandclimber

      Totally agree with you, Paul,
      I’m always writing to my MP, Council, Petitions, agony aunt etc etc. Grumpy from Longridge.
      Hope you are keeping well and getting some exercise or are you back at work now?

  3. Michael Graeme

    I’ve been reading about this a lot recently. Anywhere they shoot grouse, these magnificent birds are vulnerable. It makes for grim reading. A clear conflict of interest, but I’m on the same side as you.

    1. bowlandclimber

      This wild life crime goes under the public radar, most people live in towns or cities far removed from the grouse moors in question.
      Unfortunately the problem is largely ignored by the powers that be. That is most applicable to our present government of land owners, but even in the past others have glossed over the problem for whatever reason, shame on them.
      The public support behind the foxhunting ban was overwhelming yet the proponents of this cruel practice [I will not attribute ‘sport’] are still whinging and trying to put pressure on politicians to revoke the law.
      What hope of taking away the pleasure and financial gain of the rich landowners who promote grouse shooting.
      Dismantling of the pheasant and duck breeding industry for the purpose of shooting is not on the agenda either.

      1. Michael Graeme

        Yes, I notice a lot of the hunts say they’re upholding tradition until such a time as the ban is overturned. Making trespass a criminal offence also makes it risky for anyone monitoring what’s going on.


    There are only two possible ways forward that would achieve the desired result. A total ban on game shooting and/or mandatory 12 month prison sentences for both the gamekeeper or whoever does the act AND without exception the land owner. A third may be to bring back the death penalty for murder of raptors.

    1. bowlandclimber

      There have been very few gamekeepers prosecuted over the years and I wouldn’t think a single landowner.
      When I thinkback to the days when we used to get chucked off grouse moors [before the CROW act] it probably wasn’t because we were causing damage or disturbance but more likely to keep some of the bad practises out of the public eye.

  5. afootinthehills

    I couldn’t agree more and the slaughter of our beautiful mountain hares is equally disgusting.
    Prison for the landowner and perpetrator(s).

    (First comment so hope this works!)

  6. afootinthehills

    I couldn’t agree more and the slaughter of our beautiful mountain hares is equally disgusting.
    Prison sentences for the landowner and perpetrator(s).

    (I hope this works BC!)


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