The annual Birdcrime 2018 report by the RSPB revealed that 77% of the incidents occurred in England, but that just one conviction was made nationwide.


The Peak District, North Yorkshire and southern Scotland were identified as illegal persecution blackspots, with incidents predominantly recorded in upland areas where the land is managed for driven grouse shooting.

Hen Harrier
Hen harrier Arthur (Credit: Steve Downing by RSPB Images)

Buzzards, red kites, hen harriers, owls and peregrine falcons, the UK’s biggest bird of prey species are among the species being illegally killed.

A recently published ten-year scientific study using Natural England data revealed 72% of satellite-tagged hen harriers were confirmed or considered very likely to have been illegally killed. It also found that hen harriers are ten times more likely to die or disappear over grouse moors, where birds of prey are often considered a threat to red grouse stocks.

A poisoned golden eagle
A poisoned golden eagle found in Scotland. (RSPB Images)

All birds of prey are legally protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Yet in areas these laws are being widely ignored found the report. On some grouse moors, birds of prey and other protected species are routinely and illegally trapped, shot and poisoned. Intelligence, scientific studies and monitoring of satellite-tagged birds, continues to indicate a strong association between raptor persecution and grouse moor management.

An illegally set spring trap
An illegally set spring trap (Credit: RSPB Images)

As a result, the RSPB is calling an independent grouse moor review in Scotland, exploring how grouse moors can be managed legally and sustainably, and is calling for a similar review of England.

Martin Harper, Conservation director at the RSPB, said:“Any industry which includes criminal and environmentally damaging practices needs reform. The driven grouse shooting industry has, despite decades of warnings, failed to put its house in order - most shockingly turning a blind eye to the ongoing illegal persecution of birds of prey. Given we face a climate and ecological emergency, we believe it is time for governments to intervene.”

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Birdcrime 2018 also raises concerns over the environmental impact of intensive grouse shooting, including the burning of carbon-rich habitats which increases flood risks and releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.