A heron was allegedly shot in the neck by a group of teenage boys in Kingston.

According to a witness, six boys were shooting an air rifle from the bridge in the Charter Quay area at around 9.35pm on Sunday, August 28.

When they went towards the boys, they said the group fled on foot and on bikes.

The bird’s body was retrieved by trainee RSPCA inspector Helen Wheeler.

She said: “It’s heart-breaking to think this poor bird was intentionally targeted. It’s mindless and unnecessary cruelty. The heron didn't die instantly and was struggling for a while before sadly passing away.

“An eyewitness believes they saw a group of six teenage boys shooting from the bridge but when they went to see what they were doing the group fled on foot and on their bikes.”

It is illegal to kill or injure wild birds without a licence, and people can be fined up to £5,000 and face up to six months in prison for each bird killed.

Ms Wheeler said: “Unfortunately, air rifle attacks are not as rare as we would like. The injuries caused by such attacks are horrific and often fatal. Cats and wildlife are most often targeted simply because they are out in the open with no one to protect them.

"We are backing calls for tighter controls with better education and explanation of the law when buying an air gun and that everyone must receive basic safety training before being allowed to walk out of the shop.”

Anyone with information is urged to contact the RSPCA Inspectorate Appeal Line in confidence on 0300 123 8018.

If you see an animal in distress you can call the RSPCA’s 24-hour cruelty line on 0300 4999, or to donate visit rspca.org.uk/give.