Protection of Birds

29th June 2016
An article by Special Constable Alan Marwood, Nottinghamshire Police Rural Proactive Team

Now that spring blossoms into summer our avian friends are working flat out to raise their young and despite cats, predators and the interference of man they make a great job of it.

The law protects these creatures and certain birds have very stringent protection, whilst the law allows others to be hunted, controlled or managed. Some birds are allowed to be hunted for sport; pheasants, grouse, partridge. These are classed as game birds, but taking them without permission or in a manner not prescribed by law creates the offence of poaching.

The increase in birds of prey is a welcome sight to the countryside and let's hope that the previous damage done by pesticides and a minority of gamekeepers is confined to history.

The question arises of what can be shot lawfully? The law gives protection to all birds and requires, if there is a valid reason to trap or kill them, that there must be a reasonable case to do so.

The following birds can be hunted (controlled) legally under General Licence in humane ways:
  • Wood pigeon
  • Feral pigeon
  • Jackdaws
  • Crows
  • Magpies
  • Collared doves

An example of a reasonable case to shoot these bird species is where all other options have failed and it can be held that the birds would cause disease, a loss of livelihood and/or damage.

Feral pigeons may cause health issues to livestock by soiling their feedstuff and hence farmers often shoot these birds or employ someone else to do so. Please note there must be no unnecessary suffering to the bird or creature. Provided that the requirements of the firearms act are complied with then the law allows acts like pest control and taking out game birds during the appropriate season.

It is an offence to disturb a wild bird's nest or to take eggs without a permit. Certain species have enhanced protection and quite severe sentences have been given to offenders.

Notts Police has a dedicated team of officers who police and patrol rural areas and who are happy to provide advice in view of legal aspects around birds and other wildlife. The team can be contacted at or by calling 101. In case of an emergency please ring 999.