General licences for bird control: major changes to licensing requirements - Rugby and Daventry Radio Station, Midlands UK            

General licences for bird control: major changes to licensing requirements

Written by on April 24, 2019

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Article Published on Wednesday April 24, 2019 8:13 PM by

- Daventry News -
General licences for bird control: major changes to licensing requirements

Daventry News -

General licences for bird control: major changes to licensing requirements

Natural England announces changes to three general licences for controlling specific wild bird species.

Natural England is revoking three general licences for controlling certain wild birds as of Thursday 25 April 2019.

These licences (GL 04/05/06) cover 16 species of birds including several members of the crow family, Canada goose, some gulls and pigeons.

The change follows a legal challenge to the way the licences have been issued, which could mean users who rely on them are not acting lawfully.

Natural England is working at pace to put in place over the next few weeks alternative measures to allow lawful control of these bird species to continue where necessary. In the meantime, once the licences have been revoked and until new licences are issued, anyone needing to control one of these 16 bird species where there is no reasonable non-lethal alternative will need to apply for an individual licence.

The action is the first stage of a planned review of general and class licences, which will be completed this year.

Natural England’s interim chief executive Marian Spain said:

We recognise this change will cause disruption for some people, but we are working hard to ensure it is kept to a minimum.

We will bring forward interim measures as quickly as possible as the first stage of our planned review of the licences. We want to make sure our licensing system is robust and proportionate, taking into account the needs of wildlife and people.

What to do if you use a general licence

It is expected that, over time, many situations currently covered by the three general licences will be covered by new licences.

Natural England is undertaking new licensing assessments to support lethal control of certain birds in defined situations, such as to prevent serious damage to livestock from carrion crow and to preserve public health and safety from the impacts of feral pigeons. It intends to start issuing these licences on from the week commencing 29 April when more details will be available.

If people need to take action in the meantime they will need to apply for an individual licence, using a simplified process which will be available on from 25 April.

In limited circumstances, people may be allowed to undertake urgent action in accordance with the existing requirements of section 4 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Anyone exercising lethal control of birds after Thursday 25 April 2019 without taking the above steps will not be covered by a general licence and could be committing an offence.

If you are unsure what you should do on your land, visit the Natural England licensing webpage for more information and advice.

Background on the general licences

General licences were introduced in the 1990s to allow the legal control of bird species of low conservation concern to protect public health and safety, prevent serious damage and disease, and protect plants and wildlife.

Further details of the wider review into the operation and provision of general licences will be shared shortly. We will seek feedback from those using them and from wildlife protection and other groups. We expect to complete this review by the end of the year.

Part of Natural England’s role is to ensure relevant provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 are upheld to protect wildlife, as well as recognising the needs of people.


Currently the three licences subject to the legal challenge cover 16 bird species, including several members of the crow family (crows, magpies, rooks, jackdaws and jays), feral and wood pigeon and number of invasive non-native species (such as Canada goose).

The specific licences:

Source: Natural England

Farmer Bob Gair from Stanley, County Durham commented;

‘Today the wildlife of this country took a massive hit thanks to Chris Packham and his inability to see both sides of the picture.
He has used his fame and influence to gather support for petition to the government to get several general licenses revoked.

The general license is issued to every uk citizen every year allowing them to control several pest species for several reasons, one of the clauses which has been revoked is the one that allows us to control corvids for the protection of other birds, flora and fauna.

So from now on crows, magpies and jays will have free reign throughout the country to peck the eyes and tongues out of sheep and lambs, ransack the hedgerows eating all the newborn chicks and predating on several red listed species such as the curlew that are only thriving in areas where the control of corvids has taken place, but that will now stop and we will see a sharp decline in their numbers.

Something needs to be done to reverse this decision for the good of farmers, their livestock and also the wildlife of this country.’

Editors Comment:

‘Some of the images available to us are too graphic to reproduce, the one we have chosen to show you is the least-graphic. There is a balanced argument to be had, some wildlife control is required to safeguard crops and young farm animals, equally there should be limitations and humane methods used.’

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