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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 three general licences that may allow an authorised person to carry out activities in relation to certain species of wild birds"

kill or take wild birds for conservation purposes (GL40)

kill or take wild birds for public health or safety (GL41)

kill or take wild birds to prevent serious damage (GL42)

In relation to pest control the most common general licence that applies is GL41. This licence permits Authorised Persons to carry out a range of otherwise prohibited activities against the species of wild birds listed on the licence. This licence may only be relied upon where the activities are carried out for the purpose of preserving public health or public safety, and users must comply with licence terms and conditions. These Conditions include the requirement that the user must be satisfied that legal and in particular non-lethal methods of resolving the problem are ineffective or impracticable. The authorised person should document this.

Subject to all the terms and conditions of this licence and solely for the purpose stated above, this licence permits Authorised Persons, based on the species listed below,: i. to kill or take the wild bird ii. to take, damage or destroy their nests or iii, to take or destroy their eggs:

For more information on general licences follow this link to GOV's website

If your circumstances are not covered by these general licences you must apply for an individual licence. You can apply to control wild birds, including the lesser black-backed gull and herring gull to prevent disease or agricultural damage, conserve plants and animals or protect public health and safety. (A08 &A09).

For more information on individual licences follow this link: