The number of birds of prey being poisoned in Scotland has fallen to a record low, according to a new study.
A "hotspot" map published by the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) shows 16 birds died in 10 poisoning incidents last year, down from 28 in 2010. A golden eagle, seven buzzards and four red kites were amongst the birds that were killed in 2011.
Environment minister Stewart Stevenson welcomed the reduction in poisoning numbers.
He said: "I hope this proves to be the beginning of a continuing reduction in such cases, leading to the end of this outdated, dangerous and cruel practice. Birds of prey are a key part of our ecosystems and a magnificent spectacle in our countryside. They are valued by locals and visitors alike.
"However, a small minority continues to persecute them for their own selfish ends. I hope we are beginning to see a change in attitude. In the meantime we will continue to work with our partners in PAW Scotland to tackle poisoning and other forms of wildlife crime."
The study, led by the Scottish Government, RSPB Scotland and Scottish Land & Estates, outlines the number and general location of confirmed illegal poisonings.
The map was compiled using data held by Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA), an Edinburgh-based scientific division of the Scottish Government's Agriculture, Food and Rural Communities directorate.
Douglas McAdam, chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates, said: "These statistics reveal the lowest number of cases on record for confirmed illegal poisoning of birds of prey since we started producing these hotspot maps. This is very welcome and encouraging news, and clearly demonstrates substantial progress in this area.
"From a high of 34 birds of prey illegally poisoned in 2006, we have seen a significant drop to only 16 in 2011, a drop of over 50%.
"Last year we have seen a 42% decline from 28 cases in 2010, and this is even more significant as it occurs at a time when the Government laboratories at SASA are testing more intensively. These results illustrate the effectiveness of partnership working and a proper evidence-based approach to this area of crime."