Golfers on a Dorset course whose balls kept disappearing from the fairway have identified the culprit – a crow.
The mischievous birdie has been spotted at Parley Golf Centre swiping the balls and flying off with them.
Manager Daryl Dampney went out with his binoculars and has spotted a number of the crows.
Recently the course was expanded near to a wooded area, which is where it is thought the pilferer lives.
It is believed that the thief is most likely a Carrion crow – Corvus corone in Latin – and experts say it is probably mistaking the balls for eggs.
Daryl said: “We had a number of reports of balls going missing on various locations around the course.
“Then someone spotted a crow flying off with a ball so we knew who was responsible.
“There is a great deal of wildlife on and around the course, but this is the first time something like this has happened.
“We are letting our members and those who just turn up and play know about the crow.
“There are a number of the birds that seem to live in the woods so I expect that is where all the balls are.”
Tony Whitehead, a spokesman for the RSPB, said: “This does happen occasionally.
“It is likely that a single bird is responsible and is mistaking the balls for eggs that it wants to eat. Crows will fly off with food and store it in a larder for later.
“It is most likely a carrion crow and the way to stop it happening is to use fluorescent balls for a time.”