Natural England revoked 3 general licences for wild birds on Thursday 25 April after a legal challenge by campaign group Wild Justice:
- GL04: licence to kill or take certain species of wild birds to prevent serious damage or disease
- GL05: licence to kill or take certain species of wild birds to preserve public health or public safety
- GL06: licence to kill or take certain species of wild birds to conserve wildlife and plants
Read the legal summary on the decision to withdraw licences, and assessments made to support new licences.
Replacement general licences so far include:
If none of the new general licences cover your circumstances, you must apply for an individual licence if you need to:
- preserve public health and safety for any species other than Canada geese
- conserve flora and fauna (plants and wildlife) for any species
- prevent serious damage to crops by any species other than wood pigeon
- prevent serious damage to vegetables or fruit, or foodstuffs for livestock, by any species
- prevent the spread of disease by any species
All wild birds are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 but a licence allows you to control them subject to strict conditions.
You cannot apply for a licence to kill birds simply because they are damaging your property, such as your car or house, or if they’re a nuisance.
Who can apply
You can apply for an individual licence if you’re:
- the land owner, occupier or anyone authorised by the owner or occupier, including an agent or pest controller
- authorised in writing by the local authority
- authorised in writing by any England, Scotland or Wales conservation body, a district board for fisheries or local fisheries committee
- authorised in writing by the Environment Agency, a water undertaker or a sewerage undertaker
‘In writing’ can mean by email.
Birds you can apply for an individual licence to control are:
- Canada geese - if the circumstances are not covered by GL28
- carrion crows - if the circumstances are not covered by GL26
- collared doves
- Egyptian geese
- feral pigeons
- herring gulls
- Indian house crows
- lesser black-backed gulls
- monk parakeets
- ring-necked parakeets
- sacred ibis
- woodpigeons - if the circumstances are not covered by GL31
You will not get a licence to take or kill herring gulls, but you may get a licence to:
- take, damage or destroy their nests
- take or destroy their eggs
You can eat birds killed under this licence, but you cannot sell them for human consumption (except for woodpigeons).
The individual licence allows you to work across England and on any land, as long as you have that land owner’s permission.
If you need to kill birds before you get a licence
You can legally kill birds while your licence application is being processed if you can show that it’s necessary to:
- preserve public health or safety, or air safety
- prevent the spread of disease
- prevent serious damage to livestock or their food, crops, vegetables, fruit, growing timber, fisheries or inland waters
- have sent your application for a licence to Natural England before you take any action
- keep detailed records of what you’ve done (this could include a log of predation and legal efforts to address the problem)
If you kill birds to prevent serious damage to livestock or their food, crops, vegetables, fruit, growing timber, fisheries or inland waters, you must also:
- be able to show that there was no other satisfactory solution available
- notify the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible, including your name and address
How you can catch or kill wild birds
You can apply to control certain species by:
- taking or killing the birds
- damaging, taking or destroying their nests
- taking or destroying their eggs
You must follow animal welfare laws and kill birds in a quick and humane manner.
As well as other non-lethal methods, the licence lets you use a:
- semi-automatic weapon
- cage trap that does not meet the size requirements of the Wildlife and Countryside Act
- hand-held or hand-propelled net to take birds not in flight
For feral pigeons only, you can also use:
- a device to illuminate a target
- sighting devices for night shooting
- mirrors, lighting or other dazzling devices
If you use a cage trap, you can only use the following decoy birds:
- monk parakeets
- ring-necked parakeets
You are allowed to use Larsen traps and multi-catch cage traps as long as you comply with GL33 Standard Licence conditions for trapping wild birds and using decoys.
How to apply
Right-click on the relevant form and save it to your computer. Natural England recommends you do not use a tablet or mobile device as the forms may not work on these devices.
Save your changes as you fill in the form. When complete, check you have included all the information required before you post or email it to the address on the form.
If you need a paper copy of a form, call Natural England on 020 8026 1089.
If you have further questions, you can call Natural England enquiries on 0300 060 3900 or email email@example.com.