The first national report on bird of prey persecution and poisoning has said there were 33 confirmed incidents in Ireland in 2011.

The figures from the National Parks & Wildlife Service and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht include 24 bird of prey deaths.

Of these, 15 birds died from toxicosis, while a further eight birds were confirmed to have been shot.

Another bird died "after sustaining human inflicted injuries to one of its wings".

Four further birds were suspected to have been poisoned, but tests were not possible due to the level of body decomposition.

A number of anecdotal and unconfirmed incidents were also recorded.

Of the raptors known to have been poisoned or persecuted in 2011, the most frequent casualty was the red kite (ten dead, seven of which were probably poisoned accidentally), followed by the common buzzard (seven), peregrine falcon (four), sparrowhawk (two) and kestrel (one).

The golden eagle, white-tailed sea eagle and hen harrier have all also featured on the confirmed poison/persecution list in recent years, but do not feature in the 2011 report.

Two grey herons, 20 rooks and multiple gulls, pigeons and members of the crow family were among the other birds known to have been poisoned or persecuted in 2011.

The Bird of Prey Poisoning and Persecution Report 2011 makes recommendations on how to improve the reporting and recording of raptor injury and mortality incidents

The report also suggests ways of increasing public awareness and education in an attempt to combat illegal bird of prey persecution and poisoning.

Commenting on the findings of the report, John Lusby, Raptor Conservation Officer with BirdWatch Ireland, stated: "The recent progress in terms of recording and properly investigating incidents of raptor persecution is obviously positive, but we need to ensure to implement further improvements if it is to be effective in tackling raptor persecution.

"There is a lot more to be done to increase awareness and enforcement through this scheme.

"We need to be fully aware that the cases which were confirmed in 2011 only represent a fraction of the illegal activities carried out against birds of prey and other wildlife across the country, the vast majority of which go unreported and unrecorded.

“Every year through BirdWatch Ireland we collate many more reliable reports of illegal activities such as shooting or poisoning, but these unfortunately are very difficult to prove due to lack of evidence or because a carcass can't be retrieved and tested to confirm it was poisoned or shot."