A RARE red kite bird was shot down illegally, a post-mortem has confirmed.

The bird was found injured in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Beauty (North Pennines AONB Partnership) last Spring and later died.

It was long suspected that the bird had been shot down but it has not been until now that it has been confirmed.

Chris Woodley-Stewart, director of the North Pennines AONB Partnership, said: “This is not the first time that a kite has been illegally killed in this part of the North Pennines.

"There are so few raptors across the Northern uplands, primarily because of this illegal persecution.

“We are working with the police to raise awareness of raptor crime and will be following this up with a training event in the near future."

Mr Woodley-Stewart confirmed the police have been notified and an investigation is ongoing.

Durham Constabulary's Neighbourhood Inspector for Teesdale and Weardale, Ed Turner, labelled the crime "totally unacceptable" and urged anyone with information to come forward.

He said: “This is totally unacceptable, someone must know who is involved or responsible for this and I would urge anyone with any information in relation to this incident to report it to the police."

If you have any information on this incident, call Durham Police on 101 quoting reference number DHM230420180371 or the confidential Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300-9990101.

All calls are anonymous.