Focus On: Birds and the Law

Birds and the Law

The following is a summary of a presentation provided to Fife Bird Club members in March 2024. Refer to the respective acts for full details.

Behaviour around birds and nests

Under Section 1 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly —

  • take, damage, destroy or otherwise interfere with the nest of any wild bird while that nest is in use or being built – Section 1(1)(b)
  • obstruct or prevent any wild bird from using its nest – Section 1(1)(bb)
  • disturb any wild bird included in Schedule 1 (see list of Schedule 1 species below) while it is building a nest or is in, on or near a nest containing eggs or young – Section 1(5)(a)
  • disturb dependent young of a Schedule 1 bird – Section 1(5)(b)
  • disturb any wild bird included in Schedule 1 which leks while it is doing so – Section 1(5A)
  • harass any wild bird included in Schedule 1A – Section 1(5B). 
  • take, damage, destroy or otherwise interfere with when not in use in Schedule A1

Schedule 1A include Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Red Kite, Hen Harrier         

Possession of avian parts and derivatives

It is an offence to be in possession or control of —

  • any live or dead wild bird or any part of, or anything derived from, such a bird – Section 2(a)
  • an egg of a wild bird or any part of such an egg – Section 2(b)

unless it can be shown that:

  • the bird or egg had not been killed or taken, or had been lawfully killed or taken – Section 3(a); or
  • the bird, egg or other thing in his possession or control had been lawfully sold – Section 3(b)


Wild bird” means any bird of a species which is ordinarily resident in or is a visitor to the United Kingdom or any member State or the European territory of any member State in a wild state but does not include poultry.

Reckless” undefined but consider it as behaving with prior knowledge that one’s actions are likely to cause interference or obstruction to a nest.

 Disturbance” undefined but consider it as an involuntary change in an animal’s behaviour caused by human presence.

 Harasses” undefined but consider it as a series of incidents of disturbance.

Access rights to land

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 provides everyone with the statutory right to be on or cross land for recreational or educational purposes.  These rights are known as “access rights” – Section 1(1)

Access rights can only be exercised responsibly and without unreasonable interference with anybody else’s rights – Section 2(1)&(2)

The following activities are not considered as acting responsibly:

  • not keeping your animal under proper control
  • driving a motorised vehicle or vessel without permission
  • accessing a golf course – Section 9

 Access rights are not exercisable on land which contains:

  • a building or other structure or works, plant or fixed machinery, or a curtilage or enclosure containing any of these
  • a caravan, tent or other place affording a person privacy or shelter
  • the curtilage of a building
  • school grounds
  • private house and garden so that the occupiers have reasonable privacy without unreasonable disturbance – Section 6

Schedule 1 Bird Species:

  • Avocet
  • Bee-eater
  • Bittern
  • Bittern, Little
  • Bluethroat
  • Brambling
  • Bunting, Cirl
  • Bunting, Lapland
  • Bunting, Snow
  • Buzzard, Honey
  • Capercaillie
  • Chough
  • Corncrake
  • Crake, Spotted
  • Crossbills (all species)
  • Curlew, Stone
  • Divers (all species)
  • Dotterel
  • Duck, Long-tailed
  • Eagle, Golden
  • Eagle, White-tailed
  • Falcon, Gyr
  • Fieldfare
  • Firecrest
  • Garganey
  • Godwit, Black-tailed
  • Goshawk
  • Grebe, Black-necked
  • Grebe, Slavonian
  • Greenshank
  • Gull, Little
  • Gull, Mediterranean
  • Harriers (all species)
  • Heron, Purple
  • Hobby
  • Hoopoe
  • Kingfisher
  • Kite, Red
  • Merlin
  • Oriole, Golden
  • Osprey
  • Owl, Barn
  • Owl, Snowy
  • Peregrine
  • Petrel, Leach’s
  • Phalarope, Red-necked
  • Plover, Kentish
  • Plover, Little Ringed
  • Quail, Common
  • Redstart, Black
  • Redwing
  • Rosefinch, Scarlet
  • Ruff
  • Sandpiper, Green
  • Sandpiper, Purple
  • Sandpiper, Wood
  • Scaup
  • Scoter, Common
  • Scoter, Velvet
  • Serin
  • Shorelark
  • Shrike, Red-backed
  • Spoonbill
  • Stilt, Black-winged
  • Stint, Temminck’s
  • Swan, Bewick’s
  • Swan, Whooper
  • Tern, Black
  • Tern, Little
  • Tern, Roseate
  • Tit, Bearded
  • Tit, Crested
  • Treecreeper, Short-toed
  • Warbler, Cetti’s
  • Warbler, Dartford
  • Warbler, Marsh
  • Warbler, Savi’s
  • Whimbrel
  • Woodlark
  • Wryneck

April 2024

Letham Wetlands

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