Scotland's protected birds of prey continue to be illegally killed and trapped with figures being labelled "depressingly consistent". 

A new RSPB report has shown that 17 raptors were killed north of the border in 2021 and indicates that those killing the birds are doing so "in more targeted circumstances, using traps and guns, with a concerted effort to tidy up the evidence".

The animals are protected by law, with the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 granting them more recent protection.

The report warned that the registered numbers could be "only the tip of a far larger iceberg" due to undetected killings. 

RSPB's Scotland's head of investigations, Ian Thomson, said: "Year after year the patterns of crimes against birds of prey are depressingly consistent.

"Scotland’s raptors are being shot, poisoned, trapped, or their nesting attempts destroyed, where land is intensively managed for driven grouse shooting."

A golden eagle was found deliberately poisoned with pesticides on a grouse moor within the Cairngorms National Park for the second successive year.

The raptor was found dead next to a hare poisoned by the same substance.

The vast majority of the 68 golden eagles that have been illegally killed in Scotland since 1981 were illegally poisoned on grouse moors, the RSPB added. 

Raptor persecution also continues to affect the recovery of hen harriers, a rare moorland species for which Scotland is a stronghold. 

Last year, satellite tag data showed that three hen harriers disappeared from a small breeding population in southern Scotland in suspicious circumstances. 

This indicated they had likely been illegally killed in areas managed for driven grouse shooting, the report indicated.

Mr Thomson added: "We are also seeing satellite-tagged birds disappearing in suspicious circumstances.

"While we have commended steps taken by successive Scottish governments, Police Scotland and NatureScot to try tackle this issue, we have long argued that until the grouse shooting industry was regulated, these crimes will continue.

"This is clearly borne out by the figures we are publishing today.

"With this in mind, we warmly welcome grouse moor licensing being part of the Scottish Government’s current legislative programme and look forward to contributing positively to its progress.”

Meanwhile, RSPB's chief executive Beccy Speight added: "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.”