Wood pigeon resting in a snowy tree

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 2020

Read our General licences for Birds valid for 2020 (up until 31 March 2020).

Our latest General Licence Consultation ended on 9 October 2019.  Read our report on the 2019 General Licensing Consultation.

On the back of the consultation we are making changes to our General Licences, which will be effective from 1st April 2020.

Read our General Licensing Changes Summary and General Licensing Changes FAQs for the revised 2020 General Licences (effective from 1st April).

Anyone intending to use a General Licence from 1st April 2020 on certain excluded areas can only do so with approval from our licensing team. See our maps showing excluded Special Protected Areas and Special Areas of Conservation.

Restrictions on use of general licences

Scottish Natural Heritage 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.


Licensing Team

01463 725364

[email protected]