General licence for birds - GL 02/2023: To kill or take certain birds for the prevention of serious damage to livestock, foodstuffs for livestock, crops, vegetables and fruit
General Licences allow authorised people to carry out activities that would otherwise be illegal under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). They cover situations where we are satisfied that there is no other satisfactory solution in respect of the species to which they relate and the circumstances in which the licensed action may be taken.
Terms and conditions
If you operate under General Licence 02/2023 you must meet the following terms and conditions otherwise your actions may constitute an offence which could lead to prosecution.
What can this General Licence be used for?
This Licence can be used for the following activities for the purpose of preventing serious damage;
to kill or take certain wild birds listed below
- to attempt to kill those birds, where the attempt results in injury to the bird concerned
- to take, damage or destroy the nests or eggs of those birds
- to keep or confine particular species of wild birds for use as decoy birds in traps
Who is authorised to use this General Licence?
An authorised person may be the owner or occupier of the land on which the action will be carried out, or any person nominated by the owner or occupier of that land.
When and where is this General Licence valid?
Across Scotland from 1 January to 31 December 2023 unless where previously revoked, or on certain designated sites where permission has not been granted. Please see Annexes 2 & 3 for further details.
What restrictions apply to the use of this General Licence?
NatureScot reserves the right to exclude the use of this General Licence by certain persons and/or on certain areas of land where there is evidence to suggest that a wild bird or birds has / have been killed, injured and / or taken, and / or that an attempt has been made to do so other than in accordance with a licence, or where General Licences are being otherwise misused.
This General Licence cannot be used by those convicted of a wildlife crime until that conviction is considered spent in accordance with the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (as amended), they have received an admonishment or a court discharged them absolutely.
Any person not able to use this General Licence can still apply to NatureScot for an individual licence.
What other information must authorised persons know before considering use of this General Licence?
Authorised persons must:
- understand this General Licence and comply with its terms and conditions
- only use it for the prevention of serious damage
- register to use traps
- register to use meat-based baits in Larsen mate and Larsen pod traps
What species may be taken or killed under this General Licence?
Feral pigeon Columba livia
What methods of taking or killing are permitted under this General Licence?
Pricking of eggs
Oiling of eggs
Destruction of eggs and nests
Shooting with any firearm, including semi-automatic firearms, shotguns or air guns
A multi catch cage trap
A Larsen mate trap
A Larsen pod trap
A Larsen trap
Potential Welfare Impact (refer to method above)
What general animal welfare requirements are there when using this General Licence?
- Trap operators are responsible for the welfare of any bird or other animal under their control and they must comply with all relevant legislation including the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006. This includes providing decoy birds with adequate food, water and shelter and a suitable perch that does not cause discomfort to the bird’s feet. Decoy birds must also have adequate protection from the prevailing or anticipated wind and rain. Shelter should be provided off the ground as birds are more likely to make use of it.
- Authorised persons should use the permitted method of taking or killing which has the least impact.
- Any bird which this General Licence allows you to kill must be dispatched humanely.
- Any bird which this General Licence allows you to trap and which can be killed under this Licence must be killed humanely as soon as reasonably practicable after discovery.
- Trap operators must immediately release any unharmed bird found in any trap which is not a species covered by this General Licence.
What are the registration and reporting requirements for operators using this General Licence?
- Trap registration: All trap operators must be registered in advance with NatureScot in order to use traps under this Licence. To obtain a registration number visit Trap Registration.
All traps used must only display a single tag or sign that shows the NatureScot Trap Registration Number which allows the individual operator to be identified.
Meat bait registration for certain types of traps: Operators intending to use meat-based bait in Larsen mate and Larsen pod traps must register in advance with NatureScot by visiting Trap Registration. (see General Note 6 below).
Reporting requirement: There are no reporting requirements unless using meat-based baits (if using meat-based baits see General Note 6 below).
What decoy birds can be used in a Larsen trap?
What decoy birds can be used in other multi-catch cage traps?
What conditions apply to the use of decoy birds?
- Any dead or sickly decoy bird must be removed immediately from a trap.
- Only one decoy bird may be used in the Larsen trap and it must be kept in a separate compartment. Any decoy bird must be removed from the trap when the trap is not in use.
What other trapping conditions are there?
- When in use, all traps must be checked at least once every day at intervals of no more than 24 hours except when not possible because of unexpected severe weather conditions. In such cases, operators must make every effort to inspect the trap as soon as possible. A check must be sufficient to determine whether there are any live or dead birds or other animals in the trap.
- Any trap must not be designed or used in such a way so as to be likely to cause injury or unnecessary suffering to any bird trapped.
- Trap operators are responsible for traps carrying their Trap Registration Number. They may use a “buddy system” where the registered operator may temporarily authorise another person to check their trap. Estates & farms using a “buddy system” are strongly advised to keep records of this in operation. All traps used must only display a single tag or sign showing one NatureScot Trap Registration Number. The Trap Registration Number which appears on the trap will be presumed to relate to the operator of the trap.
- Any trap not in use must be immobilised and rendered incapable of use. For multi-catch cage traps, the access doors must be removed from the site or securely padlocked open so that no bird can be confined. Other traps not in use must be rendered incapable of catching any birds or animals by either removing them from site or securing them in an inoperable position with a padlock.
- Any Larsen mate or Larsen pod trap must be firmly pegged or staked down, or tethered prior to use so that the trap cannot be moved should a non-target species be caught.
- A Larsen, Larsen mate or Larsen pod trap need not satisfy the dimension requirements of Section 8(1) of the 1981 Act.
- This General Licence does not exempt any operator from complying with relevant firearms and public safety legislation.
- This General Licence does not provide the authorised person with consent on designated sites where consent is not already held.
- Authorised persons should not use the General Licence within 500m of a designated site listed in Annex 2 & 3 where you cannot meet the site’s “Designated Sites- Standing Conditions”.
- Intentionally or recklessly killing, injuring or taking any wild bird of a species not authorised under General Licence is an offence. It is the responsibility of operator to ensure that any methods of control permitted under this Licence do not intentionally or recklessly kill, injure or take any non-target species. Schedule 1, 1A & A1 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) provide additional protection for some species. Authorised persons should ensure they do not commit offences in relation to these provisions.
- Operators using meat-based baits in Larsen mate or Larsen pod traps will be asked to provide an annual return no later than 31st January of the following year comprising of their registration number, the number and type(s) of traps used and the location in which they were used. We will also ask for details of the type and number of non-target species caught and subsequently released.
- Those wishing to use traps not meeting the trap specifications in Annex 1 should contact [email protected] to gain permission for use.
Annex 1- Definitions
For the purposes of this General Licence;
“Multi-catch cage trap” means a cage large enough to be entered by the operator, which is covered in mesh and uses either a roof-funnel, ground-funnel or ladder/letterbox entry point for birds to gain access to the cage.
"Larsen trap" means a portable cage-trap which has a closed compartment for confining a live bird as a decoy and one or more capture compartments spring or gravity activated trap-doors which are either top or side mounted. This definition excludes any trap in which one or more capture compartments are mounted directly above the decoy compartment.
“Larsen mate trap” means a portable spring-operated cage-trap comprising two shell sections hinged along one edge connected by one or more springs and kept open by a split-rod/trip-perch (as manufactured by Elgeeco; or any trap which is equivalent to it in all relevant respects). When open (set) the minimum distance between any two corners of the trap must be 39 cm. The trap must not shut tightly along the majority of the length of the meeting edges.
“Larsen pod trap” means a portable spring or gravity operated cage-trap which has a single compartment with either one or two side or top-mounted, spring activated trap-doors which can be set independently.
"humanely" means taking all reasonable precautions to ensure that any killing of birds under this Licence is carried out by a single, swift action.
"wild bird" means any bird of a species which is ordinarily resident in or is a visitor to the UK or any member State or the European territory of any member State in a wild state but does not include poultry. "Bird" includes all stages from chick to adult.
“wildlife crime” means any offence under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 1994, the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002, Deer (Scotland) Act 1996, Agriculture (Scotland) Act 1948, the Animal Health & Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006, the Protection of Animals (Scotland) Act 1912, the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996 and the Animals & Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act 2020 (all as amended).
“designated site” means either a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) which protects habitats and/or species listed on Annex I and II of the Habitats Directive, or a Special Protection Area (SPA) which protect rare, threatened or vulnerable bird species listed on Annex I of the Birds Directive.
“Oiling of eggs” means oiling of eggs using paraffin oil (also known as Liquid paraffin BP or light/white mineral oil).
“NatureScot” means Scottish Natural Heritage acting under its operating name NatureScot.
Annex 2- Use on Designated Sites
You must understand and comply with any standing conditions for that site contained within the document- “Designated Sites- Standing Conditions” prior to carrying out any of the permitted methods over these sites.
Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands
Darnaway and Lethen Forest
Forest of Clunie
Hermaness, Saxa Vord and Valla Field
Inverpolly, Loch Urigill and nearby Lochs
Lairg and Strath Brora Lochs
Muirkirk and North Lowther Uplands
Orkney Mainland Moors
Otterswick and Graveland
Rinns of Islay
Ronas Hill - North Roe and Tingon
Tips of Corsemaul and Tom Mor
West Inverness-shire Lochs
Wester Ross Lochs
Dornoch Firth and Morrich More
Creag nan Gamhainn
Loch of Isbister
South-East Islay Skerries
Annex 3- Designated Sites Maps
More detailed site mapping is available at Sitelink
If you already have a licence number, include it in the subject line of your email, or have it to hand when you call.
Disclaimer: Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has changed its name to NatureScot as of the 24th August 2020.
At the time of publishing, this document may still refer to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and include the original branding. It may also contain broken links to the old domain.
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