POLICE are appealing for information following the discovery of three dead large flightless birds - rheas - on moorland near Clapham-cum-Newby.

The birds, also known as South American ostriches, are not native to the area and no local residents keep them, say police.

A police spokesperson said earlier today: "Rhea are a large, flightless bird, originating from South America. They can be kept as pets in the UK, without a licence or registration. The birds' cause of death has yet to be established, as is whether the birds were illegally released in to the wild whilst alive, or whether their carcasses were illegally dumped. In either case, we'd very much like to speak with their owner or owners.

"These are not small birds and would have to have been kept outdoors, so it's likely that the owners would have been known in their community. Given the location that they were found in, they may have come from North Yorkshire, Cumbria or Lancashire.

"Do you know anyone that has had three Rhea until recently? Do you know how they came to be on the moorland?"

Anyone with information is asked to telephone police on 101, quoting the reference number: 12230004985; people can also call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.