Wild bird Law  


The Law and how it relates to wild birds in Britain.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and its amendments make it illegal:

  • To catch any wild bird or take any wild bird nestling.
  • To use any form of artificial lighting, mirror or dazzling device for the purpose of catching any wild bird
  • To use as a decoy for catching any wild bird any sound recording
  • To use any net for taking birds in flight
  • To use for catching birds on the ground any net which is projected or propelled otherwise than by hand

These provisions apply unless one is specially licensed, and Part 1, section 16 (1) (b) makes provision for the licensing of all activities "for the purposes of ringing or marking, or examining any ring or mark on wild birds."

Lastly two provisions of Part 1, section 16 (5) (a) and (b), indicate that a licence may be granted either to "persons of a class" or to a particular person and that any licence may be, to any degree, general or specific.

The United Kingdom licensing  authorities are English Nature, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Countryside Council for Wales and the Environment and Heritage Service (Northern Ireland), jointly they empower the BTO as representing  Persons of a class   - this last provision enables the country agencies to empower the BTO as representing all ringers, that is "as persons of a class". If the RSPB had a separate ringing scheme its ringers would similarly be "persons of a class" as it happens, where the RSPB uses ringing as a research tool, these ringers are licensed by the BTO.

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The bird ringing Permit  which the BTO issues on behalf of the country agencies indicates that the holder is legally entitled to carry out their ringing activities. The BTO also issues permits to ringers in the Republic of Ireland and the Isle of Man although there are separate licensing authorities there.

JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee)

Natural England, the Countryside Commission for Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Environment and Heritage Service (Northern Ireland) jointly form the JNCC, and it is on behalf of the JNCC that the BTO issue licences.

Schedule 1 Species - special protection applies to those species which are scarce or are rarely breeding in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as amended by the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Part 1, section 1(5) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act makes it an offence, liable to special penalty, to intentionally disturb

  • any wild bird included in the Schedule while it is building a nest or is in, on,  or near a nest containing eggs or young or to disturb dependent young of such a bird.

However provision is made in Part 1, section 16 (1) (b) for the licensing of disturbance of Schedule 1 species for the purpose of ringing or marking or to examine any ring or mark.

Schedule 1 Licences are issued to ringers via the BTO on behalf of the Country Agencies from whom it is necessary to make a special application on an annual basis. Additionally an annual report has to be submitted to the appropriate Country Agency on the holders activities during that year, non compliance with this requirement would result in a refusal of a subsequent application.

Ringers have to specify the species that they are interested in monitoring either because they are known to be breeding, because they are suspected of breeding, or because they are potential breeders. The licence that is issued, restricts the holder to a particular region or county.



Web design and content John Middleton North West Norfolk Ringing Group Web consultant Kelvin Baldwin