A family of peregrine falcons have been found dead in their nest, police said today.
The adult female and three chicks were poisoned at their nesting site at Houghton Quarry, Sunderland, at the end of last month.
The discovery was made by a falconer observing the nest whose suspicions were raised when he realised the mother had stopped moving.
On examination of the nest, the bird was found to be dead, as was one chick, and the other two died shortly after.
PC Nick Pearson, Wildlife Crime Officer for Northumbria Police, said: "This appears to have been a cruel and selfish act against a family of birds that are as beautiful as they are rare.
"There are only about half a dozen breeding sites such as this in the North East of England.
"Countless generations of peregrines have made their homes at this site and because of this despicable crime they may never again be seen here."
"Our initial enquiries suggest the birds creatures have been poisoned deliberately and we are currently carrying out further enquiries to confirm which substances may have been used.
"I would appeal to anyone with information about this incident to come forward and help us identify those people whose selfish actions have deprived the region of the presence of these majestic birds."
An RSPB spokesman said: "This is an appalling crime.
"Peregrines have taken 20 years to recover from the devastating effects of pesticide poisoning and now, just as they starting to do well, we find they are increasingly targeted by people who, for reasons of their own, hold a grudge against them.
"It really beggars belief that at a time when the popularity of wildlife is soaring, there are people prepared to do such things."
Anyone with information is asked to contact Northumbria Police on 03456 043043 ex66705.Reuse content