URGENT action has been called to stop illegal persecution of the region’s wildlife after more than 60 crimes were reported against birds of prey in the North-East and North Yorkshire over a 12-month period.

An RSPB Birdcrime report published today has revealed that birds native to Great Britain were shot, poisoned and stolen from nests during 2015.

Within the region, North Yorkshire recorded 40 confirmed incidents of birds being killed illegally, 12 incidents were reported in County Durham, seven were found in the Tyne and Wear and two in Redcar and Cleveland.

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The RSPB report states the figures are among the worst in the country with buzzards, kestrels, peregrine falcons and red kites all targeted by wildlife offences.

Protected short-eared owls and tawny owls were also included within the Birdcrime statistics for 2015 that highlight a number of cases of illegal persecution.

RSPB officers investigating the shooting of two owls discovered near Selset Reservoir, near Middleton-in-Teesdale in October 2015 were condemned as “disgraceful”.

The birds that were found after being pushed into a pothole were included within the report’s County Durham statistics, as well as a peregrine falcon that was shot at Bishop Middleham and another peregrine shot at Barnard Castle.

In North Yorkshire, a poisoned red kite, a poisoned buzzard, a shot tawny owl, a shot buzzard and a shot kestrel added to the region’s total of 61 incidents involving raptors.

In February 2015, a post-mortem of a buzzard found in North Yorkshire revealed that it had been poisoned by a concoction of highly-toxic insecticides and carbofuran – a pesticide that was banned in Britain in 2002.

Martin Harper, RSPB’s director of conservation, said: “Our birds of prey are magnificent creatures and the sight of a hen harrier’s dramatic sky-dancing display flight is simply breathtaking.

“Everyone should be able to witness this but sadly millions of people are denied this opportunity.

“Our uplands are deprived of some amazing wildlife because of ongoing illegal persecution and it has to stop.”

The RSPB published its annual Birdcrime report online for the first time today after it originally launched in 1990.

An RSPB spokesman said: “Sadly, we believe that the figures in our report represent only a fraction of the number of wild bird crime incidents that take place.

“Many remain undetected and unreported, particularly those that occur in remote and private areas.”

For more information on the report, visit rspb.org.uk