Register a captive bird of prey

How to register to keep captive schedule 4 birds, when to ring them and when to microchip them.

Birds you must register

You must register the following birds of prey (schedule 4 birds) if you’re their keeper:

  • honey buzzard
  • white-tailed eagle
  • golden eagle
  • goshawk
  • marsh harrier
  • Montagu’s harrier
  • osprey
  • peregrine falcon
  • merlin

You’re the keeper of any bird that’s in your care even if you don’t own it.

To register a bird of prey you must ring or microchip it and return a registration form to the Centre for International Trade - Bristol (CIT-Bristol). There are different forms depending on the situation - this guide explains which form you must use and when.

Contact CIT-Bristol

Centre for International Trade - Bristol (CIT-Bristol)
Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA)
Horizon House
Deanery Road
Telephone: 03000 200 301
Fax: 028 415 2510

When you don’t have to register

You don’t have to register:

  • hybrids of schedule 4 birds
  • sick or injured birds that you’re looking after temporarily

Birds with no ring

You must only ring merlins and peregrines with commercially manufactured rings, not rings that you make yourself. You should generally use commercially manufactured rings when ringing any bird.

The ring must be marked with a unique number you’ve created. Make sure the number is unique by including details like:

  • your initials
  • your postcode
  • your phone number
  • the year the bird hatched

When to microchip birds

You must have a bird microchipped if the ring falls off or you can’t ring the bird (for example if it’s too old). You can also choose to have a bird microchipped if you can’t read the number on a ring or have it removed.

You should ask a vet to remove a ring or microchip a bird.

The microchip must have a 15-digit number. Send the registration document to CIT-Bristol with the microchip number, telling them that you took the ring off or couldn’t read it.

You can give a bird both a ring and a microchip.

Birds with no previous registration documents

Check whether the bird is ringed or microchipped. If not, you must ring it (or have it microchipped).

Complete this registration form if you:

  • are registering a bird for the first time
  • get a bird with no registration documents

Send the completed form to CIT-Bristol.

Ringing chicks bred in captivity

You must ring (with a uniquely marked seamlessly closed leg-ring). If this isn’t possible then you must microchip the chick (with a uniquely numbered, unalterable microchip transponder conforming to ISO Standards 11784: 1996 (E) and 11785: 1996 (E)).

Registering chicks bred in captivity

Because females grow to be larger than males, you may fit 2 different-sized rings to chicks and later take off 1 ring when you know the sex. After you take the ring off, return the registration document to CIT-Bristol and tell them that you took 1 ring off when you found out the bird’s sex. They’ll send you a corrected registration document.

There are different rules for ringing and registering chicks depending on what country you’re in.


You must register captive-bred:

  • chicks before they’re 15 days old
  • white-tailed and golden eagles before they’re 30 days old


You must register all captive-bred chicks before they’re 15 days old.


You must register all captive-bred chicks before they’re 20 days old.

General licences

You can get a general licence to keep wild birds without registering them in these countries:

You don’t need to apply for this general licence but you must meet its conditions and follow its instructions.

Who can use a general licence

You can use a general licence if you:

  • have been the registered keeper of 3 disabled wild-bred birds returned them to the wild and notified Natural Resources Wales / Welsh Government
  • are an RSPCA inspector
  • are an RSPB official
  • are a place which is approved by the SSPCA for the purpose of caring for schedule 4 birds
  • are a suitably experienced employee of a police force.

If you’re a vet treating an injured wild schedule 4 bird, you can keep it for up to 6 weeks without registering it under a general licence.

Register birds with a new keeper

If you get a bird that is already registered with CIT-Bristol, the bird should already be ringed (or microchipped) and come to you with a blue registration document. The keeper that you’re getting the bird from should:

  1. Tear off the disposal slip at the bottom of the blue registration document.
  2. Fill in your details.
  3. Send the slip to CIT-Bristol.

Then you must fill in the back of the form and send it to CIT-Bristol with the transfer fee (the fee you have to pay to transfer a registered bird to a new keeper).

Merlins or peregrines

If you get a merlin or a peregrine that is already ringed (or microchipped) and has a valid UK article 10 certificate, you don’t need to register it.

Imported birds

If you import a schedule 4 bird to the UK, you don’t have to change the ring as long as you can read the numbers or letters on it.

You must fill in the registration document, and send it to CIT-Bristol.

If you import a merlin or a peregrine, however, you must apply for a UK article 10 certificate instead. Article 10 certificates issued by other EU countries aren’t valid for registration in the UK.

Birds used commercially

If you want to use a schedule 4 bird commercially, you have to make sure it’s ringed (or microchipped), and fill in the form to register it and apply for an article 10 certificate at the same time. Send the completed form to CIT-Bristol.

Commercial use includes:

  • buying and selling
  • advertising for sale
  • breeding
  • displaying a bird for commercial reasons, eg in a shop

Injured wild schedule 4 birds

If you have a general licence you can keep an injured wild bird for up to 15 days without registering it. During this time you must treat the bird so it’s fit to be released into the wild.

You can keep these types of birds if they’re injured:

  • honey buzzards
  • golden eagles
  • white-tailed eagles
  • peregrine falcons
  • goshawks
  • marsh harriers
  • Montagu’s harriers
  • merlins
  • ospreys

If you are a vet treating an injured wild schedule 4 bird, you can keep it under a general licence for up to 6 weeks without registering it.

Disabled wild schedule 4 birds

If a vet confirms that an injured bird is permanently disabled (in other words, you can’t release it back to the wild), you must ring it or have it microchipped and register it.

Registration and transfer fees

Cost of registering an unregistered bird Cost of transfer (paid by new keeper)
Non-club members £20 £17
Recognised club members (British Falconers’ Club, Glantawe Hawking, Northern England Falconry Club, Scottish Hawking Club, South East Falconry Group, South East Raptors, Welsh Hawking Club) £14 £17
Zoos £14 Free for British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) members, £17 for non-BIAZA members

You must pay the fee at the same time as you register, as APHA will only process your registration with the correct fee. You can pay by:

  • cheque or postal order made payable to ‘APHA
  • card - all major credit and debit cards are accepted except American Express (phone 01633 631800 to make your payment)

What to do when registration ends

Registration ends automatically in the following situations:

  • you move a bird to a new home permanently
  • a bird dies or you release it
  • a bird escapes
  • you export a bird
  • you pass a bird to a new keeper permanently

Permanent change of address

If you change the address where you keep a bird, return the registration document to CIT-Bristol with:

  • the bird’s new address
  • the date it will move there

CIT-Bristol will send you a new registration document.

If a bird dies or you release it

Return the registration document to CIT-Bristol with the date of its death or release.

If a bird escapes

Telephone CIT-Bristol to arrange for them to contact you if someone else finds the bird. If you don’t get the bird back in a few days, send the registration document to CIT-Bristol explaining what’s happened.

If you get the bird back, Contact CIT-Bristol to reregister the bird. You won’t be charged for this.

If you export a bird

Send the blue registration document to CIT-Bristol with the export date.

If you pass a bird to a new keeper permanently

Tear off the slip at the bottom of the blue registration document, fill in the new keeper’s details, and send it to CIT-Bristol.

Temporary change of address or keeper

Check with CIT-Bristol before you move a bird. A bird is still registered if it’s:

  • with its registered keeper at a different address for less than 3 weeks
  • at its registered address but kept by a different person for up to 6 weeks

Inspections and penalties

Wildlife inspectors may visit your premises to check that your bird or birds are correctly ringed (or microchipped) and registered. If inspectors find birds that are not correctly ringed or microchipped and registered, you may be taken to court and you may be fined up to £5,000 for each bird. You won’t be allowed to keep a schedule 4 bird for 5 years from the date of your conviction.

Updates to this page

Published 1 March 2015
Last updated 23 May 2023 + show all updates
  1. Updated contact details for the Centre for International Trade - Bristol (CIT-Bristol) and how to pay the registration fee.

  2. Updated chicks bred in captivity and injured wild schedule 4 birds sections with general licence information for England, Wales and Scotland. Added general licence heading.

  3. First published.

Sign up for emails or print this page