Little tern colony eggs theft in Norfolk 'devastating'
Rare eggs have been stolen from a nesting colony of protected sea birds, prompting a police investigation.
Volunteers monitoring little terns at Winterton, Norfolk, discovered on Thursday that seven nests had been disturbed and up to 20 eggs taken.
The RSPB said little terns had been in serious decline for 25 years and described the theft as "devastating".
"It is upsetting to see the hard work of these birds go to waste," said spokesman Fabian Harrison.
"They will now have to re-lay and attempt to rear their chicks before the summer is over."
The little tern is one of the UK's rarest sea birds, with about 1,500 breeding pairs in the UK, of which half nest in East Anglia.
They travel thousands of miles from their wintering grounds in west Africa each summer to nest on the coastline.
Norfolk Police said between 15 and 20 little tern eggs were stolen from a fenced off area of the beach between 18:00 BST on Wednesday and 07:30 on Thursday.
Footprints were seen leading up to each nest in the coastal village near Great Yarmouth.
Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is an offence to intentionally take or destroy the egg of any wild bird.
"We implore the public to stay vigilant and to report any suspicious behaviour to the police immediately," added Mr Harrison.