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Conflict between birds and human activities

All birds and their nests are protected, except for a small number of birds that can be shot in the open season, either under the Wildlife Act or the Game Acts, for information on Game Act licences contact DEFA Agriculture and Lands Directorate email:

If you need to do works where birds nest, do so after the young have left the nest and are no longer using it. It is best to plan ahead, determine which species might cause an issue at a site and plan for them, for example, prevent them from entering a building before the nesting season if works are planned to start during the nesting period. Most species nest between March and August inclusive. Late nests, in August, can be particularly important for the production of adequate numbers of young birds to sustain the population, for instance in yellowhammers and corncrakes. Where activities come into conflict with nesting birds, get advice from the Department's biodiversity officers.

You may need a section 16 licence before proceeding with destructive or disturbing works though there are only specific purposes that can be licensed. It is an offence to disturb birds listed on Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Act, whilst they are at the nest, or to destroy the nest of any wild bird. Remember, once a protected wild bird has begun to build a nest, that nest is protected.

For this reason a good time to trim berry-bearing hedges and trees is late winter. Birds can then feed on the berries during the coldest months, but can nest undisturbed in the spring following pruning. If you rotate your cutting, you can cut them once every 2 or 3 years, leaving some hedge uncut each year for feeding birds and as roosting cover. A leaflet with guidelines on hedge cutting is available from the Department.

General licences

General licences are provided under section 16 of the Wildlife Act, for situations that would otherwise require an application to DEFA and an individual licence, but due to a regular and widespread requirement, a general licence is provided to remove an unnecessary administrative burden and allow immediate action. The Wildlife Licensing Page provides further detail on section 16 of the Wildlife Act 1990.

General bird control licences are provided for a maximum of 2 years and are reviewed on a regular basis. Please check to make sure you are in possession of the most up to date version (available from this page – see Downloadable Documents).  They may be used without further application, as long as the action is for the purpose specified and the user complies with the conditions and notes contained on the licence.

The current licences, which were issued on 1 January 2023 and are valid until 31 December 2024, have a requirement for reporting on their use (except for General Licence to clean out nest boxes G003.23, which does not require a report). Written reports should be submitted by completing and returning the corresponding reporting form (see Downloadable Documents) or by providing the information by email to

For any situations falling outside of the specifications of the general licences, an application for an individual licence must be made to the DEFA Ecosystem Policy Team.  Any application must relate to one of the purposes specified in S16 of the Wildlife Act.

An application form for a Licence under S16 of the Wildlife Act 1990 is available from the Wildlife Licensing Page.

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