The EU Birds Directive

The EC Council Directive on the conservation of wild birds (79/409/EEC) (The Birds Directive).

The Directive relates to all naturally occurring birds in the wild within the European Community and addresses the protection, management and control of these species and lays down rules for their exploitation. The provisions apply to birds, their eggs, nests and habitats. (Article 1).

Member States are required to take measures to maintain the populations of birds at a level which corresponds to their ecological, scientific and cultural requirements. These are to be undertaken while taking account of economic and recreational requirements. (Article 2).

The measures shall include the preservation, maintenance and re-establishment of biotopes and habitats for all bird species primarily by:

  • the creation of protected areas;
  • upkeep and management of habitats inside and outside protected areas;
  • re-establish destroyed biotopes;
  • creation of biotopes. (Article 3)

The species listed in Annex I of the Directive are the subject of special conservation measures to ensure their survival and reproduction in their area of distribution. These measures shall take account of:

  • species in danger of extinction;
  • species vulnerable to specific changes in their habitat;
  • species considered rare because of small populations or restricted local distribution;
  • other species requiring attention.

Member States are required to classify the most suitable areas as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for the conservation of these species. (Article 4.1).

Member States will take similar measures for regularly occurring migratory species not listed in Annex I, bearing in mind their breeding, moulting and wintering areas and staging posts along their migration routes. Particular attention shall be given to the protection of wetlands. (Article 4.2).

SPAs together with Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) from a network of sites entitled Natura 2000. (Article 3 EC Habitats Directive).

The protection measures afforded to classified SPAs is amended by the EC Habitats Directive so that they are the same as that for SACs. (Article 7 EC Habitats Directive).

Measures for the protection of all bird species referred to Article 1 is set out in Article 5 and prohibits:

  • deliberate killing or capture by any method;
  • deliberate destruction of, to damage to, their nests and eggs or removal of their nests;
  • taking of eggs in the wild and keeping of eggs even if empty;
  • deliberate disturbance of birds, especially during breeding and rearing;
  • keeping of birds, the hunting and capture of which is prohibited.

Prohibition measures are also provided for the sale, transport, keep and offering for sale, live or dead birds or any derivatives thereof. (Article 6.1).

The provisions of Article 6.1 do not apply to bird species listed in Annex III/I (game birds (1)).

Member States may allow, with certain restrictions, that activities referred to in Article 6.1, can be undertaken for species listed in Annex III/2. (game birds (2)).

Bird species listed in Annex II may be hunted. Member States shall ensure that the hunting of these species does not jeopardise the conservation efforts in their distribution area. They must also ensure that hunting, including falconry, complies with the principles of wise use and ecologically control the balance of the species of birds listed in Annex II. (Article 7).

Member States shall prohibit the use of all means for the large scale or non-selective capture of or killing of birds, particularly those listed in Annex IVa. Prohibitions are also provided in relation to hunting from the modes of transport and under conditions listed in Annex IVb. (Article 8).

Under Article 9, derogations may be provided from the provisions of Articles 5, 6, 7 and 8 where there is no satisfactory solution for the following reasons:

  • in the interest of public health and safety;
  • in the interest of air safety;
  • to prevent serious damage to crops, livestock, forests, fisheries and water.
  • for the protection of fauna and flora;
  • for the purposes of research and teaching;
  • to permit under certain conditions the capture and keeping of certain birds in small numbers.

Such derogations must specify the species affected; the means, arrangements or methods of capture or killing; condition of risk and circumstances of time and place. The derogations authority must specify the conditions, arrangements etc. within what limits and by whom. (Article 9).

Member States must send an annual report to the Commission on the application of derogations.

Article 11 requires Member States to ensure that any introduced species of birds do not prejudice the local flora and fauns.

Member States are required to prepare a composite report on the implementation of the Directive every 3 years. (Article 12).

The provisions of the Birds Directive are transposed into national law by means of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).

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