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Protected species: birds

Even the most common wild birds in Scotland are protected, and some species receive a higher level of protection.

More than 250 wild bird species are either resident in Britain or regularly visit our shores as part of their migration.

All wild birds in Great Britain are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). This includes even common species like pigeons and blackbirds.

Further protection is given to some rarer species and to species vulnerable to disturbance and/or persecution. This is done through various schedules attached to the Act.

You can see our summary of offences in relation to wild birds below. For the definitive list of offences, you should consult the actual legislation.

Discover more about birds found in Scotland.

Offences: wild birds

For any wild bird species, it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly:

  • kill, injure or take a bird
  • take, damage, destroy or interfere with a nest of any bird while it is in use or being built
  • obstruct or prevent any bird from using its nest
  • take or destroy an egg of any bird

For any wild bird species listed on Schedule 1, it’s an offence to disturb:

  • any bird while it is building a nest
  • any bird while is in, on, or near a nest containing eggs or young
  • any bird while lekking
  • the dependent young of any bird

For any wild bird species listed on Schedule 1A, it’s an offence to intentionally or recklessly harass any bird.

For any wild bird species listed on Schedule A1, it’s an offence to intentionally or recklessly take, damage, destroy or interfere at any time with a nest habitually used by any bird.

It is also an offence to:

  • possess or control a living or dead wild bird
  • possess or control an egg of a wild bird (or any such derivatives)
  • knowingly cause or permit any of the above acts to be carried out

There are additional offences in relation to:

  • use of prohibited methods of killing or taking wild birds
  • the sale of live and dead wild birds listed on Schedule 3
  • the registration and keeping of captive wild birds listed on Schedule 4

Exceptions to these offences include the shooting of certain Schedule 2 species outside the closed season.

Read the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 Schedules 1, 1A, A1, 2, 3 and 4

Licensing

Licensing allows named individuals to carry out actions that could otherwise constitute an offence. If you’re planning any activities that could affect wild birds or the places they use, you must make sure you stay within the law.

Find out about birds and licensing.

Learn more about licensing.

Guidance

Implications of Additional Protection for Hen Harrier, Red Kite and Golden Eagle under Schedules A1 and 1A of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

The use of helicopters and aircraft in relation to disturbance risks to Schedule 1 and 1A raptors and wider Schedule 1 species

Find out more

Protected species known to occur naturally in Scotland and their protection