BPCA news archive

14 December 2020

Licences for bird control - where are we now?

Since April 2019 there has been widespread change across the UK nations regarding the licensing arrangements for bird control.

There have been court papers filed, surveys taken, consultations, new application processes and an incredible amount of work has gone into reforming the way the licences work, to make them legally robust while still being fit for purpose.


General and individual licences for bird control, and the conditions within those licences, are specific to the devolved nation in which you operate as a pest professional.

As we come to the end of another up and down year for bird control, here are updates from England, Scotland and Wales on the state of licences for bird control and what we can expect next.

Natural England (NE) and Defra

General licences in England are issued by Defra. BPCA is working closely with Defra to ensure that suitable and workable general and individual licences are available for BPCA members.

Defra issued the following general licences this year:

Going forward into 2021, Defra has recently shared details of their new general licences.

The licences published are:

Pest professionals will typically be using the GL41 for public health and safety which covers:

Species (scientific name) for which action is to be taken:

Slips and falls

Spread of human disease

Issues with birds nesting

Canada goose

(Branta Canadensis)




Feral pigeon

(Columba livia)





(Corvus monedula)




Monk parakeet

(Myiopsitta monachus)




Unlike last year, these new licences will be available for use on and around protected sites, providing the user complies with any conditions that apply to that site and has consent from Natural England where required to do so.

The licence includes species such as Feral pigeon and Canada goose, however Carrion Crow, Magpie and Rook have been omitted from GL41.

This is because Defra’s review concluded there is no evidence to justify routinely managing these species for health and safety reasons under a GL. Similarly, Jackdaw can only be controlled under the general licence where there remains an issue with the bird’s nests.

These species can still be controlled under GL42: general licence to kill or take certain species of wild birds to prevent serious damage. Make sure you read, understand and follow the appropriate general licence before conducting any bird management.

Individual licences

As expected, lesser black-backed gull and herring gull are not on any general licence due to “evidence of population decline”.

Since announcing the decision to issue individual licences for gull control in England, the landscape has remained fairly rocky. Many applications for gull control licences were denied and BPCA wrote an open letter to Natural England expressing our disappointment at the state of licensing arrangements.

At a recent roundtable meeting with NE, the issues with individual licence applications and what had gone wrong were discussed, where BPCA and other attendees explained the impact this had on the pest management sector, making suggestions on how things could be usefully different.

In a letter to BPCA, Natural England pledged to improve its licensing service in 2021

To improve communication with the sector, David Brown from Natural England joined us at BPCA’s Digital Forum 6 and has committed to attending another round table event with us in 2021.

In a letter to BPCA, Natural England pledged to improve its licensing service in 2021, saying:

“The individual licensing process in 2020 proved challenging and we know it resulted in an unsatisfactory experience for many applicants. We received a high volume of applications, granting licences too late in many cases and we know that applicants required additional advice, guidance and clarity.”

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH)

Changes to Scotland’s general licences began to take place in April 2020, with three new licences for bird control announced.

The main changes to the licences were the species listed on them, transparency around the use of traps and the use of GL’s on designated sites became subject to new conditions.

There’s been a lot of positive feedback from BPCA members on the existing licensing system in Scotland.

One-to-one feedback calls with BPCA were arranged by SNH, to see if there were any areas that could be improved on for next year and they are keen to engage with BPCA members through webinars, roundtable events or forums.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW)

Following a legal challenge by Wild Justice, NRW made changes to the Welsh licensing system which took effect in October this year.

These general licences now expire at the end of this year (31 December 2020), however more general licences for wild bird control (GL1, GL2 and GL4) will be uploaded on the NRW website on 1 January 2021.

Although there are currently no proposed changes to these licences, it is worth noting that there is a review being conducted throughout the next year.

Additionally, there will also be a hearing for the legal challenge by Wild Justice, which has been scheduled for 18 December.

This means they could be subject to change in 2021, depending on both the review and the outcome of the ongoing legal challenge against the licences.

The review itself will look at four main areas:

  1. General Licensing
  2. Wild bird impact on fisheries
  3. Use of Cage Traps
  4. Shooting/capture of birds in Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI’s).

During the review NRW will be issuing a call for evidence, which will include a request for anecdotal evidence from licence users in Wales, so keep an eye out for more information from us on how to submit data in the coming weeks.

Although there are currently no proposed changes to these licences, it is worth noting that there is a review being conducted throughout the next year.

Licences for the control of gulls will continue on individual application basis. Worryingly, NRW estimates that around 50% of gull licence applications were unsuccessful in 2020, due to a lack of evidence being submitted by those applying.

To help members in Wales who do gull work, BPCA will be hosting an online roundtable event with NRW, with a date still to be confirmed.

If you’re a BPCA member carrying out this type of work in Wales, and you’d be interested in attending a roundtable event, please register your interest with us by email.



Species and reasons for control differ slightly from country to country, so you must be familiar with all the areas in which you operate and their licence conditions.

Your governing authority for these licences will have full copies for you to download and read: it is important that you do this, as it is a legal requirement.

Any changes to these licences will be widely advertised and we will do our best to keep you up-to-date.

England licences

Scotland licences

Wales licences

Northern Ireland licences


Are you a member with a question you'd like to put to our technical team? Get in touch.


Source: Online