Rare red kite chicks found dead in a nest near Ilkley have been confirmed as the latest victims of illegal poisoning in North Yorkshire.

Two of three young birds of prey found in a nest in the Denton area, north of the River Wharfe, last year, died after ingesting pesticide Carbofuran, a laboratory has now confirmed.

This brings the total number of Yorkshire-related red kite deaths blamed on the illegal placing of poisoned baits in open countryside to 20.

A third, decomposed chick found in the Denton nest was not taken away for testing. The fate of the parent birds is unknown.

Yorkshire Red Kites, which re-introduced the once-common bird to the region, has joined forces with a North Yorkshire Police wildlife officer to appeal for information.

Of the 20 poisoning deaths, eight dead birds – or 40 per cent – were found in the area between Blubberhouses, Leathley and Denton between 2001 and 2010.

Because kites may fly miles in search of food, it is not known if the birds picked up the poisoned bait much further afield.

It is suspected baits were laid for foxes or crows, but the carrion-eating kites picked up the food.

It is illegal to lace baits with sub-stances such as Carbofuran and Alphachloralose and leave them in the open to indiscriminately poison birds and animals. Three different poisons have been detected in the various cases.

Yorkshire Red Kites co-ordinator, Doug Simpson, said: “It is extremely disappointing that this long-illegal method of attempting to control so-called vermin species persists here to the present day.

“Whoever is responsible has clearly not been deterred by the publicity regarding the earlier occurrences and the potential penalties involved – fines of up to £5,000 and/or up to six months imprisonment. It is a beautiful part of the countryside where this is happen-ing and it is a terrible shame it should be tainted by the irresponsible behaviour of those concerned.”

Kites were also found dead at Blubberhouses and Farnley Moor in 2010.

North Yorkshire Police Wildlife Crime Co-ordinator, PC Mark Rasbeary, said: “If anyone has any information, I would ask them to get in touch with North Yorkshire Police.”

PC Rasbeary can be contacted on (0845) 6060247, or anyone with information can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

More information about reporting sightings of kites of casualties can be found online at yorkshireredkites.net.