RSPB Birdcrime Report

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has published their Birdcrime report today covering confirmed cases of bird of prey persecution in 2021. The chXout® team have read through the report to provide you with a summary of the key points.

All wild birds and their nests are protected by law but this does not seem to be enough. Existing laws appear to be little to no deterrent due to punishments not being used to their full extent. There is a concern that killing is becoming more targeted, especially in Scotland, with a concerted effort to conceal the evidence.

108 incidents of persecution took place in the UK in 2021 which is the second highest number on record after 2020. Sadly, it is considered that this figure is likely to be much higher as these are only the confirmed cases with evidence. The 2020 report confirmed 137 cases which has now risen to 146.

As seen in previous years reports, its seems that there is still a strong connection between raptor persecution and land which is managed for shooting game birds. Figures suggest that 71% of confirmed cases related to shooting estates. Also, of the 5 individuals prosecuted last year – all of them were gamekeepers. The RSPB has advised that the gamebird industry has reached unsustainable levels, with more than 60 million non-native birds released into the countryside each year. This then has a negative impact on native wildlife and habitats.

It appears that in Northern Ireland, bird crime is potentially going undetected with only one confirmed case in 2021. An increase in awareness and the need for reporting is required and a dedicated investigating officer has been appointed.

Hen Harriers

Hen Harriers are one of the rarest breeding birds of prey in the UK. They are disappearing under suspicious circumstances with no evidence of malfunction to the tracking tags they are fitted with. Shockingly it is reported that in 2019, 42 out of 58 birds fitted with these tags were killed or disappeared suddenly.


  • Increased partnership with police operations. Police officers and statutory agencies are being trained in detecting and enforcing raptor persecution.
  • In Scotland (since 2012) landowners can be prosecuted if employees break the law and this seems to be making a difference in conjunction with satellite tagging, causing a decrease in detected poisonings.
  • There have been recommendations to tackle bird of prey persecution by the 2021 UN Wildlife and Forest Crime Analytic Toolkit Report.
  • There is an increased effort in satellite tagging in attempt to provide further protection and detect crime.
  • The RSPB investigations team has increased resources and a growing team.

Urgent action needed

  • The introduction of licences for driven grouse shooting to ensure that estates operate to legal standards.
  • Introduction of additional regulation for pheasant and partridge shooting to decrease the number of game birds released to environmentally sustainable levels.
  • Better general licence conditions are required particularly surrounding the use of cage traps.