All wild birds in Scotland are given protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). Some more rare, threatened or vulnerable species are given extra protection, for instance preventing disturbance during the breeding season.
All wild birds have a conservation status. The IUCN definition of conservation is - ‘The protection, care, management and maintenance of ecosystems, habitats, wildlife species and populations, within or outside of their natural environments, in order to safeguard the natural conditions for their long-term permanence’
Predation is a natural process and a key part of functioning, healthy ecosystems. However, in some circumstances individual predatory birds / flocks of predatory wild birds may pose a threat to the conservation status of other species of wild birds through predation and disturbance, including ground nesting waders. Licensing allows actions to be carried out where one species is having a detrimental impact on the conservation status of another and to prioritise those that are most threatened.
Proving direct cause and effect between a specific predator and prey species is difficult. NatureScot will consider a range of evidence to assess whether controlling the predatory wild bird species will have a positive impact on the conservation status for which the licence is being sought and whether predation may be having a significant adverse effect on prey populations.
- Licences can only be granted under Section 16 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act (1981) for specific purposes; this includes for the purpose of conserving wild birds
- Licensing will only be considered when there is no other satisfactory alternative to prevent predation from having a negative impact on the conservation status of the wild bird
- Licence applications must be submitted by the land manager who is observing the predation of wild birds, their eggs or young, or their agent and must include a named person
- The evidence required to support licence applications is detailed in Annexes 1 & 2 of this guidance
- Licence applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis
- Licences will be valid for one year
- Licenced activities will only be considered in situations where the evidence demonstrates that wild bird predation is causing conservation concern and where proposed control will not impact on the conservation status of the predatory bird
- Licensees must comply with all other relevant legislation
- NatureScot will provide written reasons for granting or rejecting a licence
NatureScot, as the relevant licensing authority, has a responsibility to assess applications for actions that would otherwise be illegal and issue licences for specific purposes defined in the amended Wildlife and Countryside Act. Licence holders are responsible for all actions taken under their licences. In keeping with our responsibilities under the Scottish Regulators’ Strategic Code of Practice, we aim to ensure our licensing service is efficient, effective, proportionate and adaptable.
This guidance has been developed to provide clarity on the process and will be reviewed and adapted in line with the Wildlife Management Shared Approach as our knowledge and understanding grows.
All wild birds in Scotland are given protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). Some more rare, threatened or vulnerable species are given extra protection, for instance preventing disturbance during the breeding season. This means that anyone who intentionally or recklessly kills, injures, or takes any wild bird; or disturbs any wild bird included in Schedule 1, while it is building a nest or is in, on or near a nest containing eggs or young; without a licence will be acting unlawfully.
General Licences permit the control of certain species to conserve wild birds in specific circumstances. NatureScot can also issue individual, specific licences to control other species – including species not listed on the relevant General Licence based on robust evidence and observations; current scientific knowledge; and where appropriate, expert opinion.
In order to grant a licence NatureScot has to be satisfied that three ‘tests’ (conditions) are met and that the action is needed and would be effective in resolving a legitimate problem. In considering whether these tests are passed NatureScot will rely on information from the applicant, our own knowledge and experience of the issue along with any relevant published peer reviewed evidence.
These tests and the general levels of evidence required in order to pass them are summarised below.
Test 1 - Licence purpose
We can only issue licences for purposes (reasons) set out in the legislation. This means that there has to be a legitimate issue that needs to be addressed. Persons can apply for a licence to control predatory birds for the conservation of wild birds.
For test 1 NatureScot will require evidence that the bird the applicant wishes to conserve:
- Is under threat regionally or at a Scottish or UK level;
- Will benefit from having predation pressure from the predatory bird(s) reduced;
NatureScot will also require evidence that issuing a licence to control the predatory bird/s:
- Will not negatively impact on the conservation status of the predatory bird/s.
Further information on the types of evidence and data required for a licence application is provided at Annexes 1 & 2 and template data recording forms are included at Annex 4.
Test 2 – Alternative solutions to issuing a licence
Licences will only be granted when it can be evidenced that all other reasonable actions which do not require a licence have either been tried on site or we are satisfied are not likely to resolve the situation. In considering whether test 2 is passed we will rely on information from the applicant, our own knowledge and experience of the issue along with any relevant published peer reviewed evidence.
Generic actions that might be taken include:
- Some types of general scaring as part of routine management activities (including human presence, gas guns, scarecrows and other bird scaring devices).
- Livestock / Pasture / Hill Management – ensure stocking densities are not causing nest trampling, livestock management is not encouraging predators into the area, other work which might cause disturbance to breeding pairs is not being carried out in breeding season – track maintenance etc.
- Use of physical barriers such as fencing and/or netting around the area birds are using for breeding, and other regular predatory control being carried out in the area / wider area.
Test 3 – Conservation impact
We need to be confident that the impact of the licenced action is likely to have a beneficial impact on the conservation of the bird to be conserved and no adverse impact on the conservation status of the predatory bird to be controlled. To do this we will assess the following information:
- The UK / Scottish / Regional / conservation status of the bird you wish to conserve.
- The UK / Scottish / Regional /conservation status of the predatory bird you wish to control.
How we will licence
Any land manager(s) who feels that the breeding success and/or conservation status of a wild bird nesting on the land they manage is being impacted by a predatory bird can submit a licence application at any time by completing the form attached at Annex 3 and emailing it to [email protected] . An online licence application process will be developed for licence applications in due course.
Applications will require the submission of information as detailed in Annexes 1 & 2 to our licensing team.
NatureScot licensing team will assess each application and grant licences where we judge that the licensing tests are passed. We recognise that the management of predatory birds may require a collaborative approach and so we will consider applications which may cover multiple management units. We will take a proportionate, evidence based approach to licensing decisions.
All licences will include conditions, some standard and others case specific. Licence holders must submit a return detailing all licensed actions taken. Failure to do so will be considered a breach of licence condition and will therefore impact on future licence applications.
The identity of applicants are subject to data protection legislation and will remain confidential.
We aim to deliver an efficient licensing service and to help those acting under a licence comply with its terms and conditions. Compliance monitoring can act as a deterrent and help uncover wildlife crime, ensure protection for wild birds and help refine licences to foster better understanding and compliance. Therefore, we will monitor compliance with the terms and conditions of any wild bird licence that we issue, looking particularly at return data.
Annex 1: Evidence required to apply for a licence for the conservation of wild birds
Please note that our assessment will be based on information provided by the applicant and information available through national and international assessments and research reports. We recognise that not all applicants will be able to source regional and national data. We can help with this.
- Trends and conservation status of the bird you are applying for a licence to conserve (Section C in the application form)
A licence can only be issued where there is likely to be a benefit to the regional, Scottish or UK conservation status of the wild bird. We need to be clear on the conservation status of the wild bird which you wish to conserve. Sources of information on conservation status can be found in the report - Birds of Conservation Concern 5. Where the bird is of high conservation concern, e.g. Red or Amber listed under BoCC or Endangered/Critically Endangered under the GB IUCN assessment, we will take this into account in our assessment.
We also need recorded observations of the number of breeding pairs of the bird you are trying to conserve and whether this number is increasing or decreasing annually. The information we require includes:
- Regular or annual bird count data – this could include information from local bird surveys (e.g. BTO Atlas data) (please note that we can help provide this information).
- Direct observations of the bird species you are trying to conserve – we are looking for written records and photographs detailing the number of birds you have observed, how many are breeding/nesting. This could be collected through:
- Repeated monitoring of fields, survey transects or other survey methods.
- Images or videos from nest cameras.
This information should be collated over the previous breeding season, or two seasons and recorded in the templates provided in Annex 4 (or Annex 1 in the licence application form).
Further information and guidance on how to monitor waders (which may also be applicable to other birds) is available on the Working for Waders website. In particular the ‘Decision Making Guide’ document provides information on different methods of counting birds, including advice on setting up and using transects, on how to use nest cameras and other ways to collect information on the numbers and behaviours of birds.
- Details of predation and trends and conservation status of the predatory species (Section D in the application form)
We need information on the trends and conservation status of the bird you are applying to control. We need to know whether or not it is a species of conservation concern and if so at what level. It is important that we assess the impact of a licence on the predatory bird as well as the bird of conservation concern. We need to know whether there have been recent increases in the predatory bird at the location covered by the licence application, and if so what the nature of these increases has been e.g. presence of non-breeding flocks. We need to know details of predation on the prey species. The information we require includes:
- Records of numbers of birds counted from fixed points and recorded in the template included at Annex 4.
- Clear date-stamped records of observations of predation Information gathered from fixed points.
- Significance of the locality to the bird you are wishing to conserve (Section E in the application form)
We need to understand the significance of the area covered by the licence application to the wild bird species you want to conserve. We need to know if the area is a regionally, nationally or internationally important area for breeding, or a combination of these. This information may be found in relevant hot spot/cold spot maps, surveys or monitoring reports covering the local and regional area. If you don’t know if this information exists or how to access it please contact the NatureScot licensing team.
- Other satisfactory solutions which could be applied (Section F in the application form)
A satisfactory solution is any reasonable action which can be taken that does not require a licence but which will remove or reduce the predatory impact. NatureScot must be satisfied there is no other non-licensable action / satisfactory solution before issuing a licence. We require information on all management measures which you have used to attempt to remove or reduce the predatory bird impacts, along with when, where and how you have used them and an assessment of their effectiveness. It may be that such measures have been tried unsuccessfully elsewhere (in the local area or more widely). If so, give details to help provide sufficient evidence. Examples of other solutions are listed above and include scarers and deterrents, habitat management and use of physical barriers.
Annex 2: Different types of evidence and how it will be assessed
Types of evidence
Below sets out the different types of evidence we will use to assess a licence application. We don’t expect the applicant to provide all of this detail. We need substantiated records/photos/videos of local observations from the applicant (as described in Annex 1 above). Together these different types of evidence will help us assess whether the application will meet the licensing tests.
- Scientific reports, published peer reviewed scientific literature including commissioned reports, scientific journals, literature reviews, PhDs, technical and research papers, official publications.
- Local observations & knowledge, local knowledge of the area and observations of any changes, impacts on wild birds, other factors etc. accompanied by material evidence, for example date-stamped photographs, records from surveys/bird counts, records from mapped vantage points, images or video footage from nest cameras. Membership questionnaires could also be referenced. The templates at Annex 4 should be used to record this information.
- Expert judgement we will draw on experts’ judgement to help assess the evidence and to add any other relevant points.
Assessing the quality of the evidence
Below sets out how we will assess the quality of these different types of evidence:
We will take peer reviewed science into account. This includes reports containing substantiated evidence of the status of wild birds, of the risks to their conservation status and of their susceptibility to predators. We will take into account evidence on the status of predatory birds and their likely impacts on wild birds. We will also take into account reports on predator-prey interactions.
Each report will require to meet the following criteria:
- Be relevant, timely and applicable – i.e. need to take into account the time frame in which the evidence was collected and the conclusions drawn and assess whether the conclusions are still accurate, applicable and timely.
- Have a clear correlation to Scotland.
- Either be on a specific species or group of species or on a topic like habitat control or predation.
We will reference each report which we take into account and highlight specific extracts which have been referred to. We will consider both natural and social science where relevant and possible.
Local observations & knowledge
Local knowledge and observations are another part of the evidence required to assess a licence application. As with the scientific reports this type of evidence needs to be substantiated. Opinions in themselves are insufficient. We require information to be collected and collated using appropriate standards and methodologies. This will allow for verification by expert views, including ornithologists.
Annex 3: Licence Application Form
Applying for a licence for the conservation of wild birds which are allegedly being predated. You can download a licence application form and guidance from the following link Licence application form - to control predatory species for conserving wild birds
Alternatively, you can e-mail: [email protected]
Annex 4: Bird recording templates and links to useful information
Working for Waders resources - in particular the wader calendar which is designed for farmers but would work just as well for other practitioners
Working for Waders resources - in particular the decision making guide
BIRD OF CONSERVATION CONCERN SURVEY RECORDING FORM
Record the observed number (or presence) of each species of bird of conservation concern. If possible, indicate how many of these birds you observed with young and any alarm-calling, any that are agitated or exhibit mobbing behaviours. Please also note any nests or eggs you have observed (please be careful not to disturb nesting birds). Please note the method you have used to collect this information e.g. nest cameras, observations going about daily business or walking a transect line (for further guidance on how to monitor waders (this may be useful for monitoring other birds as well) please see the Working for Waders guidance.
|Location||Date||Time of count/observation||No. of each species observed||No. with young||No. alarm calling, agitated or mobbing||Other comments|
Other comments may include observations regarding weather conditions or prior disturbance that might have influenced bird numbers or direction of flight for birds that fly away. It would also be useful to reference any photographic or video evidence which you have captured to go alongside any observations recorded above.
PREDATORY BIRD SURVEY RECORDING FORM
Record the observed number of predatory birds. Note any observations of predation e.g. taking of eggs or chicks. Please note the method you have used to collect this information e.g. nest cameras, observations going about daily business or walking a transect line (for further guidance on how to monitor waders (this may be useful for monitoring other birds as well) please see the Working for Waders guidance.
|Location||Date||Time of count/observation||No. of predatory birds observed||Observations of predation||Other comments|
If you already have a licence number, include it in the subject line of your email, or have it to hand when you call.
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