General licences – some guidance

Woodpigeons and feral pigeons may be killed under the terms of a general licence

Woodpigeons and feral pigeons may be killed under the terms of a general licence

Carrion crows and hooded crows may also be killed under a general licence

Carrion crows and hooded crows may also be killed under a general licence

A tweet where wrong advice was given has prompted this post. A lady asked how she could get rid of a pigeon which was nesting in her storage cupboard. The advice from two different charitable organisations was that no action could be taken to remove the nest/eggs/chicks or to block the entrance until the chicks had fledged. In some circumstances that may be the correct advice but it depends on what was stored in the cupboard. If there was any risk to health (especially bearing in mind that pigeons can be a source of psittacosis) then action could be taken immediately to remove the nest under the terms of a general licence.

General licences issued in the constituent countries of the UK by the relevant government authorities allow for action to be taken against certain birds which would not otherwise be lawful. The birds at issue are generally species that can in some circumstances be a pest. They include carrion crow, magpie, woodpigeon and feral pigeon. The action taken against the birds may be by shooting, trapping, destruction of nests or destruction of chicks.

The main reasons justifying this action are:

  • To protect wild birds (conservation purposes)
  • To prevent damage or disease
  • For health or safety purposes

The action may only be taken by the owner of the land or someone authorised to do so and certain conditions have to be met. There are some differences in the conditions between the different UK countries.

A general licence does not need to be applied for but should be read before any action is taken.  The licences can be seen on-line at:

England – https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/general-licences-for-wildlife-management

Scotland: http://www.snh.gov.uk/protecting-scotlands-nature/species-licensing/bird-licensing/general/

Wales: http://gov.wales/topics/environmentcountryside/consmanagement/conservationbiodiversity/wildlifelicences/?lang=en

Northern Ireland: http://www.doeni.gov.uk/niea/biodiversity/wildlife_management_and_licensing/wildlife.htm

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