Natural England - General licence birds

General licence birds

Advice and legislation relating to the management and control of general licence birds.

Legal status

Certain members of the crow family, some gulls and pigeons are recognised as causing persistent problems. In certain situations, the only satisfactory solution to a problem is to issue a licence permitting an otherwise prohibited action under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).

General licences

It is not normally necessary to apply for a specific licence for these species, as Natural England issues general dispensations for the whole of England (commonly referred to as general licences'). These permit certain actions to be taken for various specified purposes. Full details of the species affected, the permited actions and the purposes covered are detailed in general licences. Please note that since 1st March 2005 house sparrows and starlings are no longer included on most general licences.

Specific licences

Occasionally, an issue arises involving one of these species which cannot be satisfactorily resolved by a method permitted under a general licence. In this situation licence applications will be considered to use a prohibited method only if there is no other satisfactory solution. Examples of such prohibited methods are: stupefying bait (e.g. alphachloralose), mist nets and carbon dioxide. Application procedures are outlined in the section below.

Additionally licences may be required to carry out actions as part of a research project or for educational or conservation purposes. An application form can be downloaded from the links in the How to apply for a licence below.

Advice - resolving problems involving general licence species

Problems can often be resolved without recourse to a licence. Advisory leaflets are available which may help you find a solution. There are also a series of answers to frequently asked questions: (558kb)pdf document which may be of assistance. If you require additional guidance contact us. We will either assist you directly or put you in touch with your local Wildlife Adviser. Advisers can offer more specific guidance to you over the telephone.

How to apply for a licence

If the action proposed is not covered by a general licence and you wish to apply for a specific licence you will need to complete an application form. The forms can be downloaded from this website, then they can either be posted to the address on the form or completed electronically and submitted by e-mail. In urgent cases, applications may be accepted by facsimile. If you are unable to download a form they can be obtained directly from Wildlife Management and Licensing. There is no charge for this licence or for advice.

Following receipt of your completed application, a Wildlife Adviser may contact you to discuss the case or to arrange a visit to the site. If a site visit is carried out the adviser will assess the situation and provide guidance on the remedial options available.

We aim to process licence applications within 15 working days from date of receipt.

Application forms including guidance notes

  • Application for a licence to kill or take birds including prohibited methods in relation to damage or public health and safety WML-A08: (325kb)word document
  • Application for a licence to kill or take birds or their eggs in relation to science, education or conservation WML-A33: (147kb)word document