Bird of prey persecution remains at a "sustained high level" in the UK - with 108 confirmed cases last year, according to a report by bird charity the RSPB.

Its 2021 Birdcrime report records just one Suffolk incident - involving a buzzard which had been illegally poisoned by a pesticide called bendiocarb. The illegal shooting of a red kite in Essex was the only recorded case there during the year.

Norfolk, however, topped the table with 13 incidents during the year with both shooting and poisoning incidents recorded.

All birds of prey are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 - which means killing them is a crime.

The second worst-performing county was Dorset with 12 incidents. Both Norfolk and Dorset are lowland areas dominated by pheasant and partridge shooting, the RSPB pointed out.

The third worst county was North Yorkshire - which is a centre for grouse, pheasant and partridge shooting - with 10 incidents recorded. In total, 80 of the cases were in England.

East Anglian Daily Times:

Among the tally were 50 buzzards, 16 red kites, seven peregrines and three goshawks. Rare hen harriers and white-tailed eagles continue to be affected, said the RSPB. The majority of birds were either shot, trapped or poisoned.

However, the RSPB believes the recorded cases are just the tip of a "far larger iceberg" - with satellite tagging studies suggesting many killings go undetected and unreported.

Worryingly, more than two thirds (71%) of all the confirmed incidents of raptor persecution related to land managed for gamebird shooting, the charity said.

One of the most shocking incidents - caught on camera by the RSPB - showed a gamekeeper beating buzzards to death in a trap in Nottinghamshire. Another case involved a mass grave of birds of prey concealed down a well in Wiltshire.

Derbyshire and Cumbria have been added to a list of raptor crime hotspots through data compiled over 10 years.

RSPB head of investigations UK Mark Thomas said: “The data in this report clearly show that raptor persecution remains at a sustained high level, especially in England, with over two thirds of the incidents connected to land managed for gamebird shooting.

“The illegal shooting, trapping and poisoning of birds of prey has no place in modern society. In a nature and climate emergency, the deliberate destruction of protected species for financial gain is completely devastating and unacceptable.

“The time for reform is now long overdue. Licensing driven grouse moors is the first step in clamping down on those estates engaged in criminal activity at no loss to those operating within the law.”

A United Nations (UN) assessment of UK wildlife crime - requested by the Department for Environment, Food AND Rural Affairs (DEFRA) - was published in December 2021. Recommendations included stronger regulation of the shooting industry.

The RSPB is urging the government to act on the recommendations urgently and to follow Scotland’s lead by introducing licensing for driven grouse shooting.

RSPB chief executive Beccy Speight said: “The evidence shows that the illegal persecution of birds of prey - which is time and time again linked to gamebird shooting - is holding back the recovery of some key species.

"This year’s Birdcrime report is another reminder of the appalling methods deployed by some, and why there is a need for swift and effective change in our countryside."

Adrian Blackmore, a director of the Countryside Alliance, said it had a zero policy on killing birds of prey

"There is no excuse for the illegal killing of any bird of prey, and we unreservedly condemn all such acts and have a zero tolerance policy towards any such incident" he said.

"While many reports of such persecution have proven to be false, the illegal killing of birds of prey continues to be carried out by a small minority of irresponsible individuals who  must be condemned.

"These people have no place in a sector that is otherwise overwhelmingly positive - one that is the economic driver for many of our more remote communities, and the largest contributor to conservation schemes in England and Wales."