A Birdcrime report by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) shows that there were 1109 reported incidents relating to crimes against wild birds in 2006, which is 50 per cent more than in 2005.

The increase may be down in part to an improvement in the procedures for reporting wildlife crimes, with last year seeing the creation of the National Wildlife Crime Unit, but the RSPB has nevertheless expressed serious concern over the rising number of crimes against birds of prey, particularly the peregrine (above), white-tailed eagle and red kite.

According to the report, 2006 saw the confirmed shooting of 28 birds of prey; 85 incidents of confirmed poisoning; 72 reports of egg collecting; and 475 reports of shooting, nest destruction and trapping of birds other than birds of prey.

The 1109 reported wildlife crime incidents comprise: 627 in England; 300 in Scotland; 143 in Wales; and 12 in Northern Ireland. Twenty-eight crimes have not been allocated to any single country.

There are three counties in England that stand out for having a particularly poor record, and these are the counties that contain the most important habitats for birds such as the red kite, goshawk and hen harrier. There were 12 reported cases of persecution against birds of prey in Derbyshire, 11 in North Yorkshire and 10 in Northumberland.

The RSPB has now employed a full-time investigations officer in the region.

The figures are released in the 25th year of the Wildlife and Countryside Act gaining Royal Assent. Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB’s conservation director, said: ‘After 25 years of legal protection, we should be seeing dramatic cuts in wildlife crime. Thankfully, some birds of prey are heading towards recovery in the UK, but let us not forget that illegal slaughter of birds of prey that caused their extirpation and extinction in the first place. We mustn’t allow age-old attitudes towards birds of prey once more put these magnificent birds under threat.’

To help prevent wildlife crime increasing by 50 per cent once more, members of the public are asked to show their support by visiting the dedicated RSPB birds of prey site.