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Protected species - birds

What are they?

There are over 250 species of wild bird that are either resident in Britain or regularly visit our shores as part of their migration.

Find out more about different bird species...

How are they protected?

All wild birds in the UK are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).  Even common species like pigeons or blackbirds are protected.

Some rarer species, or those that are vulnerable to disturbance or persecution receive further protection.  


It is an offence to intentionally or recklessly:

  • kill, injure or take a wild bird;
  • take, damage, destroy or interfere with a nest of any wild bird whilst it is in use or being built (or at any time for a nest habitually used by any bird listed in Schedule A1  PDF document ;
  • obstruct or prevent any wild bird from using its nest;
  • take or destroy an egg of any wild bird;
  • disturb any wild bird listed on Schedule 1  PDF document  whilst it is building a nest or is in, on, or near a nest containing eggs or young, or whilst lekking;
  • disturb the dependent young of any wild bird listed on Schedule 1  PDF document ;
  • harass any wild bird listed on Schedule 1A  PDF document

It is also an offence to possess or control a live or dead wild bird, an egg of a wild bird (or any such derivatives), or to knowingly cause or permit any of the above acts to be carried out.

For more advice about the law and birds listed on Schedules A1 and 1A, read this guidance  PDF document .

There are additional offences in relation to use of prohibited methods of killing or taking wild birds, for the sale of live and dead wild birds (listed on Schedule 3  PDF document ) and for registration and keeping of captive wild birds (Schedule 4  PDF document ).

There are a number of exceptions to these offences including shooting outside of the closed season for certain species (on Schedule 2  PDF document ).

Licensing and wild birds

Licences are available to allow specified people to carry out actions that could otherwise constitute an offence.  As with any protected species, licences can only be issued for specific purposes that are set out in the legislation.  If you are planning any activities that could affect wild birds or the places they use, you should make sure that you stay within the law.

If you are proposing to undertake an action that might otherwise constitute an offence, you may need a licence and should refer to our licensing and birds pages.

Here you'll find specific guidance on disturbance risks from aircraft  PDF document .

*Please Note* The summary of legislation and list of offences on this page are not comprehensive, and is intended for use as a guide only. For a definitive list of offences you should consult the actual legislation. It is also important to note that this is the law in Scotland, elsewhere in the UK the legislation may differ.

Last updated on Wednesday 13th January 2016 at 14:09 PM. Click here to comment on this page