Police are investigating after a swan was found barbecued at a popular beauty spot on an island in the River Thames, they said Wednesday.

"The swan had been killed and burned sometime over the weekend," said a spokesman for Thames Valley Police.

The charred remains were found on Baths Island in Windsor on Sunday during a routine patrol by a community warden for the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, a council spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

Wendy Hermon, the co-ordinator for Swan Lifeline, which cares for injured or sick birds along the Thames, told the Daily Telegraph: "When I got there it was terrible, the swan had definitely been barbecued and was black -- there was just a skeleton left.

"It's absolutely disgusting, I can't imagine the kind of people that would do this. When I saw it I felt sick.

"The whole breast had been removed and it looked like it had been eaten for lunch."

Swans enjoy statutory protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is an offence to intentionally injure, take or kill a wild swan.

All swans on stretches of the Thames flowing through Middlesex, Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire are counted every year in the annual swan upping census, which dates from the 12th century.

The Crown claims ownership of all swans on certain stretches of the Thames.

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