Find out how to sell wild birds and animals legally and safely, and what licences you need to get.
Applies to England
This guidance applies to buying or selling wild birds or animals within the UK.
It only covers wild birds which usually live in or visit the United Kingdom or one of the European Union countries. It does not cover birds that have been bred in captivity, poultry or game birds.
It does not apply to importing or exporting wild birds or animals into or out of the UK. Read the guidance on importing and exporting endangered species, the Balai Directive or the guidance on importing non-native animals in this case.
It also does not apply to using species listed on CITES commercially, such as charging a fee for showing them. CITES is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
A wild animal is any animal which was living in the wild before it was taken, for example a wild butterfly.
Licences to sell wild birds
As a general rule, selling wild birds in the EU is ‘prohibited’.
You must have a licence if you do sell wild birds (dead or alive).
Contact the Animal and Plant Health Agency if you’re not sure if your bird needs a licence or not.
You could be prosecuted and may have to pay an unlimited fine if you sell a wild bird without a licence.
There are some exceptions to this rule. You can sell the following birds without a licence:
- live wild bird species listed in part I of schedule 3 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (WCA) that were bred in captivity and that are fitted with a closed leg ring
- dead birds listed in part II and III of schedule 3 - you can only sell birds in part III between 1 September and 28 February
- most dead or alive birds that have been bred in captivity - some species of birds will need a licence, such as those listed on CITES
You must keep proof that birds have been bred in captivity or that they were legally taken from the wild (for example evidence of where they were bred or taken).
Taken legally means any of the following:
- taken under licence
- taken from the wild and kept as it’s unfit to be released
- found dead or killed accidentally, such as road kill
Check which licence you need
The type of licence you need to sell wild birds depends on the species and if it’s dead or alive.
For most dead birds, get a licence to sell dead wild birds.
For most live captive bred wild birds, get a licence to sell live captive bred wild birds.
If your species is not covered by either of these licences, you’ll need to get an individual licence.
You’ll also need to get an individual licence if any of the following apply:
- you cannot comply with the terms of the licence, for example the bird is fitted with a different ring (that is not a closed leg ring)
- you cannot prove the bird was bred in captivity
- you want to sell wild birds’ eggs or nests
Licences to sell wild animals
As a general rule, selling wild animals is ‘prohibited’.
You may need a licence if you do sell wild animals. This depends on which laws your animal comes under.
You could be prosecuted and may have to pay an unlimited fine if you sell a wild animal without a licence when required.
Check which of the following lists your animal is on and follow the relevant guidance:
- Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017
- European Protected Species
- Wildlife and Countryside Act
Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017
You must have a licence to sell any ‘protected’ animal that’s listed on Annex IV of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended) or that was taken legally from the wild after 10 June 1994.
Apply for a licence to sell a protected animal.
You do not need a licence if the animal is or was:
- taken from the wild in a country which is not the United Kingdom or one of the European Union countries
- bred in captivity
- taken from the wild before 10 June 1994
- listed on schedule 3 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017
European Protected Species
You must have a licence to sell any animal that’s classed as European Protected Species unless it is or was captive bred.
The type of licence you’ll need depends on when the animal was taken and why you’re selling it.
You need a class licence for animals taken before 30 October 1981, or if you want to sell animals for scientific or educational purposes.
You need an individual licence if the animal was taken after 30 October 1981, or if you want to sell it for any reason other than for scientific or educational purposes.
Wildlife and Countryside Act
You must have a licence to sell any animals that are protected by the WCA unless they have been bred in captivity, and you can prove that.
The type of licence you’ll need depends on when the animal was taken.
Licences for dead red squirrels and pine martens
Dead red squirrels and pine martens are not covered by any of these categories. You must have a separate licence to sell dead red squirrels and pine martens.
Before you sell them, you must make sure they’ve been legally taken from the wild. You should keep a record of where the animal was found or taken.
Rules on keeping wild animals
Read about your responsibilities when keeping wild animals.
Dangerous wild animals
You must have a licence to keep a dangerous wild animal while you’re waiting to sell it.
Apply for a licence to keep a dangerous wild animal.
Stop wild animals from escaping
You must make sure the animal you want to sell cannot escape while you’re waiting to sell it.
You could be prosecuted if your animal escapes and it’s a non-native animal.