David Douglas (Conservation Scientist) heads up a team looking into the effects of a wind farm on Golden plover Pluvialis apricaria, Sutherland, Scotland


Licences may be issued by the government to allow actions which would otherwise be illegal under the Act.


Licences may be issued by the government to specific persons for specific reasons, for example to a bird ringer to allow the catching of birds for scientific study, or they may be general licences which are issued countrywide.

Licences may be issued by the government, to permit an otherwise illegal act for the following purposes:

  • Scientific or educational work 
  • Ringing or marking 
  • Conserving flora or fauna 
  • Re-introduction schemes
  • Protecting any collection of wild birds 
  • Public exhibition or competition
  • Falconry or aviculture 
  • Photography
  • Taxidermy 
  • Preserving public health or air safety 
  • Preventing spread of disease
  • Preventing serious damage to livestock, food for livestock, crops, vegetables, fruit, growing timber or fisheries 
  • Killing a gannet for food on the island of Sula Sgeir 
  • Taking certain gulls' eggs for food or, at any time before 15 April, a lapwing's egg.

General Licences

The government issues annually a series of General Licences which permit certain acts which would otherwise be unlawful. They are not issued to specific persons but are posted on the internet for general use. However, they are subject to strict terms and conditions and anyone intending to use one of these licences must read them very carefully. Failure to comply could lead to an offence being committed. 

Among the most widely used General Licences are the ones which permit the following acts:

  • The killing or taking of certain ‘pest species’, or the destruction of their nests or eggs, by authorised persons for the purposes of preventing the spread of disease or serious damage to livestock, agriculture or fisheries interests, preserving air safety, conserving wild birds and preserving public health and public safety.
  • The competitive showing of certain captive bred birds.
  • The removal and destruction of abandoned eggs from nest boxes outside the breeding season.
  • The exhibition of certain captive bred birds for competitive purposes.
  • The sale of certain captive bred birds.
  • The sale of dead Schedule 3 Part III birds between 1 March and 31 August.
  • The sale of dead wild birds (includes taxidermy specimens) which were captive bred, or taken legally from the wild, and which have a CITES document if required (see CITES). 
  • For a full list of General Licences, which can then be downloaded, please follow the links to the Natural England, Scottish Executive and Welsh Assembly websites.

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.