Birds of prey illegally killed

Each week birds of prey are illegally killed by poisoning, shooting, trapping or nest destruction, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says, in a report published today.

Poisoning incidents have risen slightly, and the society concluded that a Government-led campaign against using poisoned bait had failed. One victim was white-tailed eagle, of which less than 12 pairs exist in Britain.

In 1996 there were 96 confirmed incidents of all kinds of fatal persecution, compared with 108 the year before, and 97 in 1994. Poisoning and shooting accounted for the great majority of the deaths and the incidents were distributed across Britain.

Alphachloralose, a rodenticide, was the most often used poison, with carcasses, usually rabbit, put out as bait. Most of the victims were buzzards, one of the most common raptors.

Some gamekeepers target birds of prey because they see them as a threat to game birds, while others are killed accidentally by farmers and landowners trying to kill pests such as crows and foxes. However, the RSPB says these detected killings are only a small proportion of the total.