CRAVEN is losing out on the red kite as a common sight in its skies because of 'barbaric and persistent persecution'.

Despite the protected birds flourishing in other parts of Yorkshire since being re-introduced to Harewood almost 20 years ago, red kite remain rare in Craven and not a single breeding pair exists in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Meanwhile, poisoned and shot birds have been found on the eastern fringe of the national park in Craven and in Nidderdale, where the grouse moors start.

Carl Lis, chairman of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, said the birds were being 'hammered' before being able to spread into the park.

And, although the national park was not against grouse shooting, he said it was firmly opposed to the 'barbaric' and persistent persecution of raptors.

“There is no doubt that the eastern fringes, where the grouse moors start, is the real problem area. Red kites have attempted to spread east from their reintroduction sites but have got hammered," he said.

“One of the poisons that has been used is alphachloralose, which stops red kites regulating their temperature. Birds have been found at the bottom of trees, having fallen from their perch dead."

He added: “I want to stress that the national park authority is not against grouse shooting, and we have had fantastic cooperation from a number of grouse moor managers and owners. What the authority is against is the barbaric and persistent persecution of birds of prey."

Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, said the red kite re-introduction had been a great success story and claimed the birds were increasingly seen in parts of Craven. "Many of our grouse moor managers and owners across the Yorkshire Dales work in collaboration with the national park, and while there is limited suitable tree habitat for red kites to nest in on grouse moors, gamekeepers and visitors alike now regularly see them hunting taking advantage of the plethora of wildlife grouse moor management supports, " she said.

"Large numbers of red kite are spotted on grouse moors within the Yorkshire Dales on a regular basis including Bolton Abbey in North Yorkshire as well as across the eastern fringe of the national park."

In February, North Yorkshire Police joined forces with the RSPB and the two national parks in the county to launch Operation Owl - an initiative to tackle the illegal persecution of birds of prey.