Dozens of birds of prey were illegally shot, trapped and poisoned in 2019 - and the worst spot for offences was North Yorkshire.

There were 85 confirmed incidents of bird of prey persecution last year, according to the latest bird crime report from the RSPB.

They involved birds such as buzzards, red kites, peregrine falcons, golden eagles and hen harriers, the report found.

The highest concentrations of crimes were in the north of England and Scotland, with North Yorkshire the worst spot, and half the confirmed incidents occurred within protected landscapes, the conservation charity said.

The RSPB said its data, peer-reviewed science and population surveys showed persecution was concentrated on and near grouse moors, and called for tougher action on the industry to end the killing of protected species.

It also said a growing number of satellite-tagged birds of prey such as hen harriers were vanishing in suspicious circumstances – leading conservationists to believe they had been illegally killed.

And persecution continued during the Covid-19 lockdown, according to the RSPB, with its investigation unit seeing its busiest ever spring dealing with reports of bird of prey crimes and helping police with investigations.

The charity is urging the Government to act to address “environmentally damaging practices” by grouse moors including persecution of birds of prey and burning of moorland vegetation on peat soils.

All birds of prey are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, but the RSPB warned the law was failing to protect them.

Mark Thomas, the RSPB’s head of investigations UK, said: “Once again the bird crime report shows that protected birds of prey like hen harriers, peregrines and golden eagles are being relentlessly persecuted, particularly in areas dominated by driven grouse shooting.

“At a time when the world – and the UK in particular – is seeing catastrophic declines in wildlife populations, the destruction of rare wildlife looks like the opposite of progress.”

He said that there could be 12 times as many hen harriers breeding in England if illegal killing stopped and said the shooting community could not “control the criminals within their ranks”.

“UK governments must implement tougher legislation to bring the driven grouse shooting industry in line with the law, stamp out environmentally damaging practices and deliver on the UK’s nature recovery targets,” he said.