Image: Steve Round
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 is the primary legislation which protects animals, plants, and certain habitats in the UK.
Information on the legal protection afforded to wild birds in England, Wales and Scotland in Part 1 of the Act is given in these pages. However, we cannot hope to answer all specialist queries or problems on the website. For detailed information, it is advisable to consult the Act itself, which is available from HMSO – please see the Acts of the UK Parliament link on this page.
Please also note that because of devolution there are now some significant differences in the law between the constituent countries of the UK.
Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, a wild bird is defined as any bird of a species that is resident in or is a visitor to the European Territory of any member state in a wild state.
Game birds however are not included in this definition (except for limited parts of the Act). They are covered by the Game Acts, which fully protect them during the close season.
All birds, their nests and eggs are protected by law and it is thus an offence, with certain exceptions (see Exceptions), to:
The maximum penalty that can be imposed for an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act - in respect of a single bird, nest or egg - is a fine of up to £5,000, and/or six months' imprisonment.
Have you seen a crime against a wild bird? Use this form to report a wildlife crime to us.