Greater Manchester Police and the RSPB are appealing for information after a buzzard was found shot near Diggle, in the Peak District National Park, on May 11.

A member of the public found the bird dying on the ground and contacted the RSPB. However it had to be euthanised by a vet the next morning due to the extent of its injuries.

The body of the bird was x-rayed, and found to contain six pieces of lead shot. Further post-mortem analysis revealed that the bird had also been shot at an earlier occasion, but survived.

All birds of prey are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To intentionally kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail.

However the northern Peak District is a known hotspot for the shooting, trapping and poisoning of birds of prey. Nearby In 2018, a climber witnessed a red kite being shot out of the sky near Saddleworth, the same year that a tawny owl and a short-eared owl were found shot near Wessenden Head.

The RSPB’s Investigations Team recently reported a surge of potential and confirmed incidents of bird of prey persecution since lockdown. It is believed that the absence of visitors and raptor workers from key parts of the countryside may have served as an invitation to some to increase their efforts to kill birds of prey.

The Peak District - popular with visitors, but also poachers Credit: PA Pictures

Jack Ashton-Booth, RSPB Investigations Officer, drove the dying bird to the vets. He said:

“To hold the body of a bird in your hands that’s been riddled with lead shot, knowing that you probably can’t do anything to save it, is devastating. That is the reality of raptor persecution.

“We are grateful to the member of the public who reported this incident. If you find a bird of prey dead or injured in suspicious circumstances, please report it to the police. We’re certain that more birds will be killed than we ever find or hear about.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Greater Manchester Police on 101.

Anyone finding a wild bird of prey suspected of having been illegally killed, is asked to contact RSPB Investigations on 01767 680551 or fill in the online form.