Blood samples taken from birds as far afield as Sussex and the north of England were yesterday being analysed to see if they were lawfully captive or illegally taken from the wild. Genetic DNA "fingerprinting" techniques can determine the birds' parentage. All the species involved - peregrine, merlin, goshawk and red kite - are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
Police are believed to have been tracking a network of bird dealers for some months. Det Sgt Ian Guildford, South Wales police wildlife liaison officer, who co-ordinated the operation, said: "Birds of prey are subject to considerable illegal persecution. It is important that we send out a strong message to those involved that we will take steps to tackle these unusual crimes."