Scotland tops the list of shame for attacks on birds of prey, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
The society has released figures showing that, between 1995 and 2006, there were 494 confirmed instances of persecution of the birds north of the border. England was not far behind with 454 incidents; Wales had 142 and Northern Ireland 23.
Worst region in Scotland was Tayside and Northumberland topped the English league of disgrace. There were 1,113 confirmed attacks on birds of prey in the UK.
The report by the RSPB was released to coincide with the launch of the National Wildlife Crime Unit based in North Berwick, near Edinburgh. Earlier this year, £10,000 was offered by the society as a reward for the conviction of the poisoners of two golden eagles in Scotland.
The RSPB's director of conservation Dr Mark Avery said: “Persecution of birds of prey is holding back the recovery of several species. The hen harrier, golden eagle and red kite are all too frequently the victims of illegal persecution.
“We look forward to the creation of National Wildlife Crime Unit and hope that it is finally able to stamp out those crimes which were outlawed decades ago.”
The unit is police-led, with 14 members of staff. Its task is to catch criminals exploiting and endangering wildlife, and will tackle illegal trading of endangered species as well as poaching and persecution of protected wildlife.
Members of the public who have information about wildlife crime can email the unit at firstname.lastname@example.org.