Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

United Kingdom legislation

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 is an law for environmental conservation made by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It protects native species and restricts the release of non-native species into the wild. The Act is split into four parts. Killing most mammals and almost all birds is illegal in the United Kingdom, except for certain types and for certain reasons.


General licences under the act to hunt birds are issued each year by the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in England. The Department can give a licence to kill or disturb birds. It also gives out a general licence. This allows any "authorised person", that is someone who has the landowner's permission, to kill certain birds, or to destroy their eggs or nests, if there is no other way to get rid of the birds.

This table shows the name of the bird, and the reasons ( ) that type of bird can be destroyed.

Common name Scientific name To prevent the spread of disease1 To help conserve wild birds To preserve public health or public safety
Canada Goose Branta Canadensis
Crow Corvus corone
Dove, Collared Streptopelia decaocto
Gull, Great Black-backed Larus marinus
Gull, Herring Larus argentatus
Gull, Lesser Black-backed Larus fuscus
Jackdaw Corvus monedula
Jay Garrulus glandarius
Magpie Pica pica
Pigeon, Feral Columba livia
Rook Corvus frugilegus
Woodpigeon Columba palumbus

1or to prevent serious damage to livestock or damage to foodstuffs for livestock, crops, vegetables, fruit, growing timber, fisheries or inland waters.

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