Legal Aspects of Avian Pest Control

The UK Law (there are some minor differences in Scottish Law) dealing with the taking of avian “pest species” is the Wildlife & Countryside Act (1981), as amended, and also the European Birds Directive (1992), and the starting point is that every species is given an amount of legal protection.  The degree of this protection is decided by the UK Parliament, who should take into consideration many factors, including the wild population of the species concerned, the damage/nuisance caused by that species and other factors.

Where a species is deemed a pest (by the authorities, not simply the landowner), the law sets conditions as to who, when, where, and how that species may be killed or otherwise “taken” or interfered with.

General Licences

With the introduction of the European Birds Directive, in 1992, all former distinctions about “pest species” where nullified, and new regulations came into being, whereby two General Licences were applied to the UK.  In England, these licences are issued by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and signed by the Secretary of State every six months; in Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, and in Wales Natural Resources Wales issue and regulate General Licences.  The licenses cover situations such as landfill clearance (public health), runway clearance (public safety) and pest control.

Known as "General Licences", these documents are held by the Government on our behalf, and are issued to cover the whole country and its inhabitants.  Providing that one acts strictly in accordance with the general licenses, authorised pest control is legal.

The terms of the General License are that;

  • The person must have authority from the landowner/tenant or manager of the land.
  • Any control and/or killing of “pest” species must be for one of the following three reasons;
  1. Public Health
  2. Airfield Safety
  3. Pest Control

Early in 2019, there was a great furore concerning General Licences, and many pest controllers had to cease their work.  As The Bird Control Company does not use lethal control methods, we were able to carry on (totally legally) providing our non-lethal bird control services for our many clients. 

The only small hiccup we experienced was with the removal of gull nests and eggs.  Since this episode, the Government has more clearly defined the procedures to which everyone must adhere, and we are now once again able to offer these services to our clients.

In the interests of all concerned, The Bird Control Company will not carry out any pest control unless, and until, the owner/tenant/manager of the land concerned gives written permission for us to do so.  We will supply suitable, legal paperwork as part of the contract between ourselves and the client.  No bird control work may be undertaken until this signed, written permission is received.

Once we have the necessary permissions, we will apply for the correct General Licence required for us to carry out the appropriate action.