Cambridgeshire | Buzzard shot dead

Yet another Buzzard shot dead – this one found in rural Cambridgeshire around fifteen miles southeast of Cambridge. As Cambs Police point out all birds of prey are protected by law. Everyone knows that. Peppering a Buzzard with shotgun pellets will always be a deliberate act.

There has been a speight of Buzzard killings in the last few months (this is the fourth we’ve written about since mid January). For many of us seeing a Buzzard is a thrill. They have returned to areas that they were persecuted out of, but there have been dark mutterings from pheasant shoot operators about there being ‘too many Buzzards’ for years – that of course despite the industry releasing around 60 million non-native pheasants and partridges every year, while there are less than 100,000 pairs of native Buzzards across the whole of the UK, with their numbers apparently declining slightly in Wales.

Just last week the ‘ecologically-illiterate’ pro-shoot lobby group Songbird Survival was continuing its nonsensical calls for licences to ‘control’ ‘apex predators’ like Buzzards and Sparrowhawks which they claim keep on ‘multiplying’ while their prey disappears down some raptor-created rabbit hole. No serious ecologist is linking the decline of ‘songbirds’ (especially farmland birds) with the welcome return of birds of prey (extensive research has shown that these declines are caused primarily by the intensification of agriculture: grubbing up of hedges, the eradication of insects and seeds, mutiple croppings etc). But it’s easy enough to create a conspiracy based on false equivalences if you’re trying to set up the conditions to remove raptors and your audience wants them gone too. And as an explosive series of recent posts written by a gamekeeper for the excellent Wild Mammal Persecution UK (WMPUK) blog alleges, some shooting estates would happily use the cover of licences to kill Buzzards to take out other raptors too:

Most estates organised major culls [of Mountain Hares] every season but with the government introducing licensing things will be more difficult now. The main thing is that once you have a licence there is no way of checking numbers. Unless someone follows you all day every day it is impossible to prove you have killed more than the licence allows. It’s why there is such a push to get a licence for buzzards. Even if the licence is for a single bird it’s impossible to prove anything unless you kill more than one bird at a time. A licence could also give cover to taking other pests like harriers and eagles. Most of these town folk can’t identify a bird properly anyway so it’s their word against your’s and as a professional keeper backed up by top notch lawyers the risk is nothing.

WMPUK, A Keeper’s Tale Part: 2, 04 Feb 21

Chilling stuff. That excerpt doesn’t prove that all gamekeepers or all shooting estates are targeting Buzzards of course, but the calls for licences are growing and while they’re not being granted wildlife criminals probably figure they can get away with shooting them during this lockdown anyway (as they did during the first) when far fewer potential witnesses are out and about. Particularly now that the police are apparently cracking down on lockdown birdwatching which they consider ‘recreation’ while there is apparently no issue with shooting birds as that’s considered ‘exercise’…

There is clearly a huge amount of poorly-informed rhetoric about ‘licencing’ the destruction of birds of prey out there. Combined with a determination to protect shooting’s profits from raptors and fewer knowledgeable birdwatchers out in the field helping dissuade criminality, it’s little wonder that reports like these continue to grow.



04 Feb 21

Police are appealing for information after a buzzard was found dead in Horseheath.

A member of the public found the bird of prey in a wooded area while on a walk on 29 January.

Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s Rural Crime Action Team (RCAT) are now working with the RSPB to find those responsible after it was discovered it had shot gun pellets in its body and wings.

PC Alun Bradshaw from the RCAT said: “Someone has deliberately shot this bird and we urge anyone with information to contact us.

“All birds of prey are protected by law. If you notice a dead or injured bird of prey in suspicious circumstances, please notify us and the RSPB.”

RSPB Assistant Investigations Officer, Tom Grose, added: “Many of us will have enjoyed watching buzzards lately on our daily walks. They are a natural part of our countryside and a sign of a healthy ecosystem. Buzzards and other birds of prey are protected by law, yet all too often we received reports of them being illegally shot, trapped and poisoned.

“At a time when the natural work and its wildlife are increasingly under threat, we all have an important role to play. If you have any information which may help this investigation, please come forward.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact us online via our web chat or call 101 quoting incident 239 of 30 January.

Cambridgeshire Constabulary, Buzzard found shot in Horseheath, 04 Feb 21