Wild birds: licence to take or kill to prevent damage or disease (GL04)

Get a general licence as a land owner or other authorised person to catch alive or kill certain wild birds to prevent serious damage or disease.

This publication was withdrawn on

This licence has been revoked. Read Wild bird general licences: Defra and Natural England’s approach for details of replacement licences.


[Withdrawn] Licence to kill or take certain wild birds to prevent serious damage or disease (GL04)

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If you’re a land owner, occupier or other authorised person you can use this general licence to carry out a range of otherwise prohibited activities against certain wild birds. You do not need to apply for this general licence but you must meet its conditions and follow its instructions.

You are an authorised person if you’re:

  • the land owner, occupier or anyone authorised by the owner or occupier
  • 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

When you can use this licence

You can only use this licence to prevent serious damage to:

  • livestock
  • foodstuffs for livestock
  • crops, vegetables and fruit
  • growing timber
  • fisheries or inland waters

You can also use it to stop the spread of disease.

You cannot use this licence to kill birds because they are damaging your property, such as your car or house, or if they’re a nuisance.

Birds you can catch alive or kill with this licence

With this licence you can catch alive or kill, as well as take, damage or destroy the nests, or take or destroy the eggs:

  • crows
  • collared doves
  • jackdaws
  • jays
  • lesser black-backed gulls
  • magpies
  • pigeons (feral and woodpigeon)
  • rooks
  • Canada geese
  • Egyptian geese
  • monk parakeets
  • ring-necked parakeets

You must still follow animal welfare laws and kill birds in a quick and humane manner.

You can eat birds killed under this licence, but you cannot sell any for human consumption other than woodpigeons.

How you can catch alive or kill wild birds

In addition to other legal methods, this licence lets you use a:

  • semi-automatic weapon
  • cage trap that doesn’t 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:

  • crows
  • jackdaws
  • magpies
  • monk parakeets
  • ring-necked parakeets
  • rooks
Published 1 January 2015
Last updated 23 April 2019 + show all updates
  1. Notice that this licence will be revoked on 25 April.

  2. Replaced licence with new version issued 1 January 2019

  3. Two separate lists of birds covered by this licence have been amalgamated into a single list. Licence covers nests and eggs of entire list, not just geese and parakeets.

  4. Replaced licence with new version issued 1 January 2018

  5. Replaced licence with new version issued 1 January 2017

  6. Replaced licence with new version issued 1 January 2016

  7. terms and conditions updated for clarity

  8. First published.