General licences for birds

General licences permit ‘authorised persons’ to perform certain actions affecting birds, which would otherwise be illegal, without individual licences.

General licences cover relatively common situations where there’s unlikely to be any significant conservation impact. They avoid the need for people to apply for individual licences for these specific circumstances.

You don’t need to apply to use a general licence. But you must be sure that the licence is appropriate and that you meet the licence conditions in full. Abuse of, or failure to comply with, the conditions could constitute an offence.

General licences cover certain types of activity relating to birds, for example:

  • preserving public health
  • protecting air safety
  • preventing the spread of disease

General Licences for 2024

Read our General Licences for Birds valid for 2024

There are no changes to the suite of 2024 General Licences from the 2023 General Licences.

Anyone intending to use General Licence 01, 02 or 03 from 1st April 2020 onwards on certain Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation must comply with site based standing conditions, covering disturbance of species and damage to habitats.  If you can meet the standing conditions then you can proceed with your activities without the need to contact us.  If you cannot meet the standing conditions set out for the site then you will need to apply for a permission by contacting our Licensing team at [email protected].

If you are looking for General Licence 14/2024 for stoat trapping, you will find it on the Stoats - Licence forms and guidance page.

If you are looking for General Licence 16/2024 for sale, advertisement, possession & transportation of mountain hare & mountain hare meat, you will find it on the Hares - Licence forms and guidance page.

Trap registration

As of 1st April 2020 NatureScot Licensing took over Trap Registration from Police Scotland.  In order to use traps under our General Licences you are now required to register with us.  Please see our Trap Registration page for further information.

Restrictions on use of general licences

NatureScot can prohibit the use of General Licences 01, 02 and 03 by certain persons and/or on certain areas of land, where we have reason to believe that wild birds have been taken or killed by such persons and/or on such land other than in accordance with the general licence.

For further information about our framework for implementing restrictions and the general licence restrictions we currently have in place, please see our 'General licences for birds - restrictions' page.

General licence returns

A condition of some general licences is that you must submit a licence return to us. The general licence will tell you what return information is required and how to submit it.

You should email licence returns to [email protected] in an appropriate format (e.g. table, spreadsheet). Enter ‘General licence return’ and the location details (e.g. Edinburgh Airport) in the subject line.


If you already have a licence number, include it in the subject line of your email, or have it to hand when you call.

Licensing Team

01463 725364

[email protected]

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