The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) (known as ‘the Act’) implemented the European Birds Directive of 1979, along with the Bern Convention of 1979. This page cannot cover all aspects of the law or bird ecology, but is an introduction to show how you can help to protect these species.
All wild birds, their nests and their eggs are protected under the Section 1 of the Act. It is an offence intentionally to:
- Kill, injure or take any wild bird
- Take, damage or destroy the nest of a Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle or Osprey (even if disused)
- Take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird whilst it is in use or being built
- Take, damage or destroy an egg or any wild bird
- Or to possess any live or dead wild bird or the egg of any wild bird, or any derivative
Furthermore, many rare birds are listed on Schedule 1, which makes it an offence intentionally or recklessly to:
- Disturb a Schedule 1 bird while it is building a nest or is in, on or near a nest containing eggs or young; or
- Disturb dependent young of such a bird
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) issues licences for specific purposes, so that you can undertake legitimate work without breaking the law. We can issue licences for the following purposes (Section 16(1) of the Act):
- Scientific, research or educational purposes
- Ringing or marking, or examining rings or marks
- Conserving wild birds
- Re-population / re-introduction of wild birds
- Conserving flora and fauna
- Protecting any collection of wild birds
- Falconry and aviculture
- Public exhibition / competition
- Public health, public safety, air safety
- Preventing spread of disease
- Preventing serious damage to crops, fisheries etc
Permits for ringing birds are issued by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).
You can apply to NRW for a Schedule 1 bird licence for nest recording, for example, or for research / survey or photography licences. See ‘Schedule 1 application form’.
If you have a problem with fish-eating birds affecting fisheries, see ‘Piscivorous birds licensing guidance’ and ‘Piscivorous birds application form’.
Please refer to ‘Non-piscivorous birds application form’ if you need to take or kill other birds (non-piscivorous) for the following reasons:
- Preventing serious damage to livestock, foodstuffs for livestock, crops, vegetables, fruit, growing timber, fisheries or inland waters
- Preventing the spread of disease
- Preserving public health or public or air safety
- Conserving wild birds
Certain bird species are covered by General licences which allow their control for specific purposes only. See ‘General licences - birds’ for more information.