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Home » PestFix Guide to Protected Birds and the Law
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Protected Birds and The Law

In the UK the principal piece of legislation protecting birds is the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 and its subsequent amendments. The governing body is the Department of the Environment Food & Rural Affairs, DEFRA.

In the act it states, “all wild birds, their nest and their eggs are protected by law. However there are currently thirteen exempt species including Herring gulls, Greater Black Backed Gulls, Lesser Black Backed Gulls and Feral Pigeons/Feral Doves all of which are recognised by DEFRA as a nuisance pest, and may be controlled by humane methods under a DEFRA general licence."

It is highly likely that your pest gulls or pigeons are in one of the above four categories.

Wildlife & Countryside Act Exempt Pest Species Under General Licence

Common NameScientific Name
CrowCorvus corone
Dove, CollaredStreptopelia decaocto
Gull, Great Black-backedLarus marinus
Gull, Lesser Black-backedLarus fuscus
Gull, HerringLarus argentatus
JackdawCorvus monedula
JayGarrulus glandarius
MagpiePica pica
Pigeon, FeralColumba livia
RookCorvus frugilegus
Sparrow, HousePasser domesticus
StarlingSturnus vulgaris
WoodpigeonColumba palumbus

For more information on general licences follow this link to DEFRA’s website:


Causing suffering to the gulls is illegal. Only the occupier or owner of a building can take action to control herring gulls. If you own or occupy a building, you can employ a pest controller under a DEFRA general licence to take action against Herring Gulls, Greater Black Backed Gulls and Lesser Black Backed Gulls on your behalf. It is our company policy to employ only non-lethal means against gulls.


Feral Pigeons are a common pest and whilst not protected by law must still be treated humanely when being controlled under the DEFRA governance. Causing them harm or prolonged suffering is illegal and again the removal of pigeons needs to be professionally undertaken by trained individuals under a DEFRA general licence.

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