The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 protects all wild birds, their nests and eggs. However, specific exemptions permit certain species to be controlled by particular methods for specific reasons.
This exemption is given in the way of a licence issued by Natural England (previously DEFRA) called the General licence. General licences are issued to allow certain actions to be carried out that would otherwise be illegal under the legislation, without the need for people to apply for a specific licence.
Control of birds through population reduction techniques is generally both less desirable and less effective than removing their food sources or blocking off sites where they perch or roost. The latter technique, known as proofing, is now used extensively with blunt spikes, sprung wires and nets installed on buildings to keep birds off without harming them.
The law relating to bird control is complex. An excellent explanatory booklet ‘Wild Birds and the Law’ is available from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire, SG19 2DL. Tel: 01767 680551.