General Licence - GL03/2021 - To kill or take certain birds for the preservation of public health, public safety and preventing the spread of disease

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 03/2021 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 preserving public health, public safety and preventing the spread of disease;

  • 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

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 2021 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 on or after 1 January 2016 unless, in respect of that offence, they are a rehabilitated person (for the purposes of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and that conviction is spent), 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 preserving public health, public safety and preventing the spread of disease

What species may be taken or killed under this General Licence?

What methods of taking or killing are permitted under this General Licence?


The potential welfare impact goes from lower to higher in this list;

  1. Pricking of eggs
  2. Oiling of eggs
  3. Destruction of eggs and nests
  4. By hand
  5. Targeted falconry
  6. Shooting with any firearm, including semi-automatic firearms, shotguns or air guns

What general animal welfare requirements are there when using this General Licence? 

  1. Authorised persons should use the permitted method of taking or killing which has the least impact.
  2. Any bird which this General Licence allows you to kill must be dispatched humanely.

What are the registration and reporting requirements for operators using this General Licence?

There are no registration or reporting requirements under this Licence.

What decoy birds can be used under this Licence?


General Notes

  1. This General Licence does not exempt any operator from complying with relevant firearms and public safety legislation.
  2. This General Licence does not provide the authorised person with consent on designated sites where consent is not already held.
  3. 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”.
  4. 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.

Annex 1- Definitions

For the purposes of this General Licence;

"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 in on Annex I and II of the Habitats Directive, or a Special Protection Areas (SPAs) which protect rare, threatened or vulnerable bird species listed in 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

Donald Fraser

Acting Head of Wildlife Management
For Scottish Natural Heritage acting under its operating name NatureScot

1 January 2021

Licensing Team
Great Glen House
Leachkin Road

Annex 2- Use on Designated Sites

Authorised persons wishing to operate on the designated sites (listed below) must visit the General Licences for Birds page. 

You must understand and comply with any standing conditions for that site contained within the document- “Designated Sites- Standing Conditionsprior to carrying out any of the permitted methods over these sites.

If you cannot comply with these standing conditions then contact [email protected] or 01463 725 364.


  • Abernethy Forest
  • Anagach Woods
  • Assynt Lochs
  • Ballochbuie
  • Cairngorms
  • Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands
  • Craigmore Wood
  • Darnaway and Lethen Forest
  • Drumochter Hills
  • Forest of Clunie
  • Foula
  • Glen Tanar
  • Hermaness, Saxa Vord and Valla Field
  • Hoy
  • Inverpolly, Loch Urigill and nearby Lochs
  • Kinveachy Forest
  • Knapdale Lochs
  • Lairg and Strath Brora Lochs
  • Lewis Peatlands
  • Loch Lomond
  • Loch Maree
  • Loch Shiel
  • Mointeach Scadabhaigh
  • Morangie Forest
  • Muirkirk and North Lowther Uplands
  • Novar
  • Orkney Mainland Moors
  • Otterswick and Graveland
  • Rannoch Lochs
  • Rinns of Islay
  • Ronas Hill - North Roe and Tingon
  • Tips of Corsemaul and Tom Mor
  • West Inverness-shire Lochs
  • Wester Ross Lochs


  • Strath
  • Dornoch Firth and Morrich More
  • Creag nan Gamhainn
  • Loch of Isbister
  • Ballochbuie
  • Lewis Peatlands
  • Glen Tanar
  • Sanday
  • South-East Islay Skerries
  • Garron Point

Annex 3- Designated Sites Maps 

More detailed site mapping is available at Sitelink

Special Protected Areas 

Special Areas of Conservation 

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