Changes to Bird Control Licences

Farmers and landowners, have you got the correct bird control licences following major changes?

Mike Bracegirdle, head of the Butcher & Barlow Agriculture Team, reviews the significant changes to general licences for bird control.


In the face of massive opposition, DEFRA have reconsidered the revoking of three general licences for controlling treatment of certain wild bird species.

As of 14th June 2019, DEFRA published three new general licences for bird pest control, which are as followed:

  • GL34 to Conserve wild birds, flora and fauna
  • GL35 to Conserve public health or public safety
  • GL36 to Prevent serious damage to both livestock, foodstuffs for livestock, crops, vegetables and fruit

These new licences confirm that the landowner and/or occupier or authorised person may shoot pests including:

  • Crows
  • Magpies
  • Rooks
  • Jackdaws
  • Jays
  • Wood Pigeons; and
  • Certain non native species such as Canada Geese

Users of the new licences will also need to ensure that have consent form Natural England is operating on Site of Special Scientific interest.

What are the changes?

Following a legal challenge to the way permits have previously been granted, Natural England is revoking three general licenses for controlling treatment of certain wild bird species. These general licences cover 16 species including:-

  • Crows;
  • Magpies;
  • Rooks;
  • Jackdaws;
  • Jays;
  • Wood Pigeons; and
  • Certain non native species such as Canada Geese.

From today (25 April 2019), landowners will classify these species as pests.

Though Natural England is supposedly working on alternative measures to allow control of these species, with Spring crops just showing through and damage rife from pests both ground and air, this could not have come at a worse time for many farmers and horticultural growers.

What do you need to do?

Until today, certain species of bird have been able to be controlled under general licence. With these general licences revoked, farmers should cease any trapping or shooting of these species. For more information, please click through to the relevant pages on website:



GL06 .

For those whose crops continue to be damaged, specifically cereal growers suffering from woodpigeon and crow damage, you will need to apply for an individual licence as soon as possible.

Rules governing control of animals such as stoats, weasels and rabbits remain unchanged. Further, game birds are not affected as these are covered by the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

For further information on whether this affects you and whether you need to apply for an individual licence, please contact our Agriculture team at the  Gadbrook Park office.

Our Agriculture Team works very closely with the Commercial Property and Corporate and Commercial Departments.  By taking the time to understand your commercial objectives, Butcher & Barlow’s commercial and agriculture teams aim to become an integral part of your professional support team.  Furthermore, our partner-led services ensure that you receive the quality of advice you would expect from a city firm but at a lower cost and from a convenient business park location.

an image of Mike Bracegirdle, a Butcher & Barlow LLP employee

Mike Bracegirdle