SADDLEWORTH has been branded a “death zone” for birds of prey in a damning report by the national bird conservation organisation.

The area, including parts of the Peak District, has been highlighted by Mark Thomas, RSPB head of investigations UK.

He says: “In September last year, a climber heard gunshots and saw a red kite fall from the sky near Saddleworth Moor.

“A short-eared owl was also found shot in September last year near Wessenden Head. It was alive but had to be euthanised because of its injuries.

“A month later a tawny owl was discovered close to where the short-eared owl was found. It too had been shot.

“We also know, from a recent scientific paper, illegal killing is largely why we’re seeing next to no peregrines and goshawks nesting in the Dark Peak.”

And he added: “These are despicable acts which are robbing people of the chance to see these incredible birds in the wild.

“And it’s why the RSPB has launched an appeal, asking everyone who is as outraged as we are about these crimes, to get behind our work and help us make raptor persecution a thing of the past.

“Parts of the Peak District, including Saddleworth, have become a death zone for birds of prey.”

The RSPB’s Investigations team has launched a new appeal asking everyone concerned about the illegal killing of birds of prey in the UK to become a "bird of prey defender".

For as little as £3 per month, supporters can help fund important work being done to protect hen harriers, red kites and golden eagles, and put more boots on the ground to help catch the people responsible.

The RSPB say, despite legal protection, birds of prey, owls and ravens are being routinely killed – something which has gone on for decades and shows no signs of stopping.

Methods used to catch and kill birds of prey include trapping, poisoning and shooting.

Recently, a rare hen harrier was found fatally injured in an illegally-set spring trap on a grouse moor in Scotland.

The appeal link is: