White-tailed-eagle Haliaeetus albicilla, bird looking out of carrying case, part of the species reintroduction programme, Scotland

Captivity, sale and killing of birds

Information about the legal position on the sale of live and dead birds, exhibition of wild birds, killing and taking of birds and birds in captivity.

Captivity, sale and killing of birds

The sale of live wild birds and their eggs

Unless appropriately licenced it is an offence to sell, offer for sale, possess or transport for sale or exchange:

  • any live bird unless listed on Schedule 3, Part 1 of the Act and then only if it is captive bred and close ringed with an approved ring as defined by the Secretary of State's regulations; or covered by a General Licence (see Licences)
  • the egg of any wild bird, whether or not taken in contravention of the Act.   

The sale of dead wild birds (including taxidermy specimens)

A General Licence has been issued to allow the sale of lawfully acquired dead wild birds or parts of wild birds, of certain species not listed on Parts II or III of Schedule 3 of the Act. Certain records must be kept and the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) should be contacted for further advice. Birds listed on Schedule 3, Part II may be sold dead at all times. Those on Schedule 3, Part III may only be sold dead from 1 September until 28 February (see Schedules).

Game birds may only be sold dead during the open season and for a period of up to 10 days immediately after the end of that season.

The exhibition of wild birds

It is an offence to show at any competition, or in premises in which a competition is being held, any live wild birds unless listed on Schedule 3, Part I and which are captive bred and ringed in accordance with the Secretary of State's regulations, or covered by a General Licence (see Licences).

The killing and taking of birds

A number of methods of killing, injuring or taking birds are prohibited. These include gins, springes, traps (eg pole traps), snares, nets, bird lime, electrical scaring devices and poisonous or stupefying substances. The use of decoys of live birds tethered, blinded or maimed is illegal. It is also an offence to cause or permit such methods to be used.

Birds in captivity

It is legal to keep native birds in captivity if they have been bred in captivity from lawfully captive parents, but the responsibility rests with the owner to prove this if challenged. Additionally, some species listed on Schedule 4 of the Act have to be ringed and registered with Defra (see Schedules).

It is illegal to keep any bird, excluding poultry, in a cage or other receptacle which is not of sufficient size to permit the bird to stretch its wings freely. Exceptions to this are if the bird is undergoing veterinary treatment, is in the course of conveyance, or is being exhibited. In the latter case, the time the bird is so confined should not exceed a total of 72 hours.

Golden Plover eggs, Sutherland, Scotland

How you can help

Poisoned bird of prey

Have you seen a crime against a wild bird? Use this form to report a wildlife crime to us.