A Code for Birdwatchers and Photographers

Golden Plover

The Isle of Man has many iconic bird species including Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Chough and Manx Shearwater that are thrilling to watch and photograph. This webpage provides information on the legal status of birds and a code of conduct to enable birdwatchers and photographers to behave responsibly.

Birdwatchers and photographers should:

  • always put the welfare of birds first;
  • ensure that they are aware of the law;
  • use good field craft skills;
  • consider using a vehicle as a hide to minimise the risk of disturbance where legal to do so;
  • not chase rare or vagrant birds, they may be exhausted;
  • avoid disturbing any birds. If you hear a bird repeatedly alarm calling, the bird is distressed and you are too close to the nest or young. This is disturbance and you should move away immediately.

Birds and the Law

The Wildlife Act 1990

All wild birds, their nests and eggs are protected by the Isle of Man Wildlife Act 1990. It is an offence, with certain exceptions, to:

  1. intentionally or recklessly kill, injure or take any wild bird;
  2. intentionally or recklessly take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built;
  3. intentionally or recklessly take or destroy the egg of any wild bird;
  4. have in one’s possession or control any wild bird (dead or alive), part of a wild bird or egg or a wild bird which has been taken in contravention of the Act;
  5. intentionally or recklessly disturb any wild bird listed on Schedule 1 while it is nest building or is in, on or near a nest with eggs or young; or disturb the dependent young of such a bird.

A penalty of up to £10,000 for Schedule 1 species, or £5,000 for all other species can be imposed per offence.

The Ayres National Nature Reserve

Wildlife at the Ayres National Nature Reserve has additional
protection under the Byelaws and any living creature is protected from disturbance.
No person shall wilfully, recklessly or negligently:

  1. take, molest, disturb, injure or kill any living creature on the land;
  2. take, destroy or disturb the eggs, larvae, pupae or other immature stages of any living creature on the land;
  3. remove, displace, damage or destroy any tree, shrub, plant, fungus or part thereof on the land;
  4. permit any plant or other form of living vegetation, or any living creature to be brought on to and left upon the land.

A penalty of up to £5,000 can be imposed per offence.

Manx National Heritage (MNH) Land

Birds on MNH land have additional protection under their byelaws:

  1. No unauthorised person shall on any Trust lands take or disturb birds’ nests or eggs.
  2. No unauthorised person shall erect a hide for the purpose of bird or animal observation or for photography on Trust land.

Schedule 1 Birds which are specially protected from intentional and reckless disturbance when nesting

Part 1
Avocet Goshawk Shag
Bittern Grebe, Little Shearwater, Manx
Bullfinch Harriers (all species) Shelduck
Bunting, Corn Heron, Purple Shoveler
Bunting, Reed Kingfisher Skylark
Buzzard Kite, Black Snipe, Jack
Buzzard, Honey Kite, Red Sparrow, House
Buzzard, Rough-legged Lapwing Sparrow, Tree
Chough Martin, Sand Sparrowhawk
Corncrake Nightjar Spoonbill
Crake, Spotted Osprey Starling
Crane, Common Ouzel, Ring Swan, Bewick's
Crossbills (all species) Owl (all species) Swan, Whooper
Curlew Petrol, Storm Swift
Dipper Pintail Tern (all species)
Dove, Turtle Pipit, Tree Thrush, Song
Eagle, Golden Plover, Golden Tit, Bearded
Eagle, White-tailed Plover, Little Ringed Twite
Egret, Little Plover, Ringed Warbler, Grasshopper
Falcons (all species) Quail, Common Water Rail
Flycatcher, Spotted Redstart, Black Whinchat
Gadwall Redstart, Common Yellowhammer
Garganey Sandpiper, Common
Geese (all species) Scaup

Part 2 Protected during the closed season

(1st Feb to 31st Aug) 

(1st Feb to 31st Aug) 

(1st Feb to 30th Sept) 

Areas of Special Protection (ASP): birds

The Ayres Gravel Pits are designated an ASP and special restrictions apply. Access is restricted under the ASP Order and is subject to permission from the landowner.

Bird Sanctuaries were designated under the Wild Birds Protection Act 1932. All wild birds in these areas are protected under their Orders and this includes protection from wilful disturbance of the nest or eggs. Five sites are designated including Derbyhaven/Langness/Fort Island and Tynwald Park/Arboretum. The remaining three sites are in private ownership.

Biological Records

Your bird records are useful for the long term conservation of species and habitats. Please submit your sightings to Manx Birdlife.


Licences can be obtained for a derogation from the law if the risk of disturbance is necessary and justified. Applicants must demonstrate a level of competency prior to a licence being issued. See here for more information. 

    • If birds are disturbed they may keep away from thier nests, leaving chicks hungry or enabling predators to take their eggs or young.
    • During cold weather, or when migrants arrive here, repeatedly disturbing birds can mean they use up vital energy that they need for feeding.
    • Be an advocate for bird watching and photography; the thoughlessness of one individual may damage the reputation of others. 

For more information please contact:

Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture

Thie Slieau Whallian

Foxdale Road

St John’s

Isle of Man


Telephone:+44 1624 695701

Email:Send Email

To print off this information see Downloadable Documents.