BIRD lovers are being robbed of the chance to see spectacular birds of prey in the wild after a new report revealed 81 confirmed incidents of illegal raptor persecution in 2016, without a single person prosecuted.

Birdcrime 2016, the only report summarising offences against birds of prey in the UK, revealed 40 shooting, 22 poisoning, 15 trapping and four other incidents of illegal persecution against raptors.

Among the victims were hen harriers, peregrine falcons, red kites and buzzards.

However, evidence suggests these figures are just the tip of the iceberg with many illegal killings going undetected or unreported.

The report revealed that close to two-thirds, 53, of the confirmed incidents took place in England.

In Lancashire, confirmed incidents included a shot peregrine, a shot kestrel and an illegally trapped peregrine.

Martin Harper, RSPB conservation director, said: “Birds of prey bring our skies to life.

“There is nothing like seeing a diving peregrine or a skydancing hen harrier.

“The sights of these spectacular birds are something we should all be able to enjoy, unfortunately illegal activity is robbing us of this and preventing them from flourishing.

“There are laws in place to protect these birds but they are clearly not being put into action. We need governments across the UK to do more to tackle the illegal killing to protect our raptors for future generations to enjoy.”

Previous research has shown that illegal killing of birds of prey is associated with land managed for intensive driven grouse shooting, leaving vast areas of our uplands without raptors.

A Natural England report revealed ‘compelling evidence’ that persecution of hen harriers, associated with driven grouse moors, was the main factor limiting their recovery in England.

The RSPB believes the introduction of a licensing system for driven grouse shooting would help tackle the ongoing illegal persecution that occurs on these grouse moors.

Hen harriers were most recently spotted in the Ribble Valley.

Bob Elliot, RSPB Head of Investigations, said: “This latest Birdcrime report continues to highlight that in the UK we have a major issue with birds of prey being deliberately and illegally killed, despite having full legal protection. This type of crime has serious consequences for the populations of species, such as the hen harrier, and we must see a change in attitude and more effective law enforcement to protect these birds for years to come.”