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Wildlife Law in the UK-is It Good Enough?

Updated on August 4, 2015

History of Britains Wildlife Protection.

Over the last decades man has done a great deal of damage to the fauna and flora with which we share our planet. Not to mention the damage done to the planet Itself. Animals have been persecuted, hunted, shot and poisoned all in the name of sport or just plain disregard of their right to live. However, in the U.K. {and other countries } their welfare is being addressed by law. It comes about in many countries because of European Commitments, especially the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, often known as the Berne Convention { which was the basis for the later {1994} European Habitats Directive, and the European Birds Directive{1997}, on the conservation of wild birds which Britain had already ratified.

The backbone of wildlife protection in Britain is the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 {as amended} . two major pieces of Legislation protecting wildlife in Britain pre-dated, and were repealed by the passing of the the Act, these were the Protection of Birds Act 1954,1964,and 1967; and the conservation of the Conservation of Wild creatures and Plants Act of 1975.

The Act does not extend to Northern Ireland { who have an Act of their own} the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, but is the principle mechanism for the legislative protection for the wildlife in the rest of Britain. The Act is divided into the four parts----

part one--is concerned with the protection of wildlife.

part two--relates to the countryside and national parks { and the designation of protected areas}.

part three--covers public rights of way. {now improved with the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000}

part four--deals with the miscellaneous provisions of the Act.

There is still legislation in force that provides protection to wildlife such as the Ground Game act 1880. The protection of animals Act 1934; The Conservation of Seals Act 1970; The Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975; The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976; The Animals ( Scientific Procedures Act 1986; The Deer Act 1991; The Protection of Badgers Act 1992.

Here I concentrate on the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 { as amended} which lists the animals and plants on different Schedules of the Act giving various degrees of Protection. The animals and plants that are listed on the Schedules may be taken off or indeed added to the Schedules by the Secretary of State,after representation from the Statutory Conservation Bodies co-ordinated by the Joint Conservation Committee. In many cases the is a statutory five year review undertaken.

PART ONE -SECTIONS 1-8 relate to the protection of wild birds.


The basic principle is that all birds are protected through out the year, unless it is other wise stated. This means that with certain exceptions you may not kill,injure or take any wild bird. Protection is also extended to nests, {while in use or being built}, and to eggs. It also prohibits possession of wild birds, { dead or alive } or their eggs. In this article I will focus on the protection wild birds receive in the UK.

Schedule One Birds.

The birds that appear on Schedule one are fully protected that includes special protection at all times.As well as the provisions already mentioned above , it is an offence to disturb them intentionally any bird listed on Schedule one while it is building a nest on a nest or near a nest containing eggs or young of these birds. It is an offence to take pictures of these birds while at the nest or of their dependent young without a special license.{ these may be applied for from Natural England} In the case of England or from the relevant bodies in Wales and Scotland.


Avocet--Recurvirostra avosetta; Bee eater--Merops apiaster; Bittern--Botaurus stellaris ; Bittern,little--Ixobrychus minutus. Blue throat--Luscinia svecica, Brambling--Fringilla montifringilla; Bunting , Lapland--Calcarius lapponicus; Bunting ,Cirl--Emberiza circlus. Bunting ,snow--Plectrophenax nivalis; Buzzard, honey--Pernis apivorus. Chough--Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax. Corn Crake--crex crex. Crake-spotted--Porzana porzana. Crossbills all species--Loxia varieties. Curlew-stone--Burhinus oedicnemus. Divers-all species--Gavia varieties. Dotteral--Charadrius morinellus. Duck-longed tailed--Clangula hyemalis. Eagle -golden,--Aquila chrysaetos. Falcon,Gyr--Falco rusticolous. Fiedfare--Turdus pilaris. Fire Crest--regulus ignicapillus; Gagarney--Anas querquedula; Grebe-black necked--Podiceps nigricollis; Grebe-Slavonian--Podiceps auritus; Green Shank--Tringa nebularia; Gull -little--Larus minutus; Gull- Mediterranean --Larus melanocephalus; Harriers { all species} Circus var; Heron -purple--Ardea purpurea; Hobby --Falco subbuteo; Hoopoe--Upupa epops; Kingfisher--Alcedo atthis; Kite , red--Milvus milvus; Merlin--Falco columbarius; Oriole-golden-- Oriolus oriolus; Osprey--Pandion haliaetus; Owl-barn--Tyto alba; Owl-snowy--Nycetea scandiaea; Peregrine falcon--Falco perigrinus; Petrel-leache's--Oceanodroma lobatus; Phalorope-red necked--Phalaropus lobatus. Plover-kentish--Charadrius alexandrius; Plover-little ringed--Charadrius dubius; Quail-common--Coturnix corturnix; Redstart-black--Phoenicurus ochrurus; Redwing--Turdus iliacus; Rosefinch-scarlet--Carpodacus erythrinus; Ruff--Philonachus pugnax; Sand piper-green--Tringa ochropus; Sand piper-purple--Calidris maritima; Sandpiper-wood--Tringa glareola; Scaup--Athya marila; Scoter-common--Melanitta nigra; Scoter-velvet--Melanitta fusca; Serin--Serinus serinus; Shore lark--Eremophila alpestris; Red backed shrike--Lanius collurio; Spoon bill--Platalea luecorodia; Stilt-black winged--Himantopus himantopus; Stint-Temmick's--Calidris temminckii; Swan-Bewick's---Cygnus bewickii; Swan- whooper-- Cygnus cygnus; tern-black--Chlidonias nigra; Tern -littel--Sterna albifrona; Tern-roseate--Sterna dougallii; Tit-bearded--panurus biamicus; Tit-crested---Parus cristatus; Tree creeper-short toed--Certhia brachydactyla; Warbler-cetti's --cettia cettia; Warbler-Dartford--Syvia undata; Warbler-marsh-- Acrocephalus palustris; Warbler-Savi's --Locustella luscinioides; Whimbrel--Numenius phaeopus; Wood lark--Lullula arborea; Wryneck--Jynx torquilla;


Golden eye---Bucephala clanga; Greylag goose--Anser anser { applies to the outer Hebrides, Caithness, Sutherland and Wester Ross only}.; Pintail--Anas acuta.

Schedule one species. Top Kingfisher. Below Golden eagle

The kingfisher is a Schedule one species--- photograph by Ohad Redlich
The kingfisher is a Schedule one species--- photograph by Ohad Redlich
The magnificent golden eagle is another fully protected species. photograph by Richard Bartz
The magnificent golden eagle is another fully protected species. photograph by Richard Bartz

Birds--schedule Two Part One

The following birds are protected during the close season only--that is 1st of February to 31st August for ducks and geese when below the high water mark. outside the this period they may be taken or killed.

Capercaillie --Tetrao urogallus; Coot--Fulcia atra; Tufted duck---Aythya fuligula; Gadwall duck--Anas strepera; Golden eye duck--Bucephala clangula; Goose -greylag---Anser anser; Goose-white fronted---Anser albifrons {in England and Wales only } Goose Canada--Branta canadensis; Mallard--Anas platyrhynchos; Moorhen {water hen} --Gallinula chloropus; Pintail duck---Anas acuta; Plover-golden---Pluvialis apricaria; Pochard--Aythya ferina; Shoveler--Anas clypeata; Snipe-common---Gallinago gallinago; Teal--Anas crecca; Wigeon---Anas penelope. and Woodcock--Scolopax rusticola. Note that the Capercaille was moved to be a Schedule one bird in Scotland in an amendment of 2001. Thus it was removed from Schedule 2.[ Capercaillie is only found in Scotland]

Many species as you can see are now fully protected by law and this can only enhance their well being in general although illegal persecution still goes on. However, anyone caught and prosecuted face a criminal record. For example in September 2008 a Gamekeeper received a six month suspended sentence after pleading guilty to the systematic killing of birds of prey{ and Badgers} on the shooting estate where he worked.

Schedule 2 part 2 names the birds that are pest species. This means that the birds may be taken or killed by AUTHORISED persons at all times These so called pest species are subject to an annual review. The birds on this list include Wood pigeon, Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, feralpigeon, House sparrow and Starling.

Schedule 3-part 1 deals with birds that can be sold alive at all times, IF ringed and bred in captivity. These include species such as Blackbird, Bullfinch, Chaffinch Barn owl and Linnet.

Schedule 3-part 2 deals with birds that can be sold dead at all times only two are listed the wood pigeon and the feral pigeon Schedule 3 -part 3 The following birds may be sold dead from the 1st of September until the 28th February These include--Coot. tufted duck, Snipe, common. Woodcock and Golden plover.

Schedule 4 deals with birds that must be registered and ringed if kept in captivity. These include Brambling, Barn owl, Purple heron and Whooper swan.

The Act also prohibits certain methods of killing, injuring, or taking birds are forbidden, these include--Gin traps, spring traps, snares, nets, birdlime,electrical scaring devises, poisonous or stupefying substances, bows, automatic or semi-automatic weapons and night-shooting devises. The use of wild birds as decoys, whether tethered, blinded or maimed is illegal.

GAME BIRDS-- are not included in the Act, but they are fully protected under the Ground Game Act of 1880.

Finally the amendments are on going and I will update as changes occur.

Birds May Appear on Different Schedules

Male siskin . Siskins are included on Schedule 3 part 1. photograph by-Slawomir Staszczuk
Male siskin . Siskins are included on Schedule 3 part 1. photograph by-Slawomir Staszczuk
 The coot is listed on Schedule 3 part 3. photograph by R.H. Warpole
The coot is listed on Schedule 3 part 3. photograph by R.H. Warpole


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    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 7 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Thanks Lorraine for your appreciated comments. and for taking the time to read the hub.

    • profile image

      poetlorraine 7 years ago

      what a lovely lovely hub, i am very interested in this kind of thing, though not actively ........ although we always visit sanctuary's etc.... your pictures are beautiful, and i am looking forward to reading more of your hubs