Birds can be divided into two groups in Ireland; those that are resident all year round, and migrant species who fly south for the winter. In terms of issues of conservation concern affecting these groups, the residents tend to fare better in terms of habitat and food supply but are still subject to unnecessary mortalities in the form of road casualties and illegal hunting. For the migrant birds such as swallows; many return to find previous habitats degraded and/or reduced. As well as contributing to Ireland’s biodiversity; migrant birds form important links in the food chain of Ireland’s native birds of prey and small mammals.
Baby birds: hatchlings are very vulnerable during the first weeks of life from predation. They rely on adequate cover from hedgerows and vegetation to protect them from over exposure to predators and the elements. However, illegal cutting of hedges and habitat destruction have led to inadequate cover of nest sites.
The young of birds of prey have been vulnerable to poisoning due to their higher position on the food chain. As well as this, some are directly targeted due to perceived livestock predation.
Under the Wildlife Acts, in line with the EU Birds Directive (2009/147/EC), all wild birds, their nests and eggs are protected (including visiting migrant birds and non-breeding wintering species and "so called" pest species).
Unless authorised to do so under a valid licence/permission/derogation granted by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht under current legislation it is unlawful to:-
Game birds may be hunted under licence and subject to the current Open Seasons Orders...
Wildlife (Wild Birds) (open Seasons) Orders 1979 to 2012 allows wild game birds to be hunted at certain times of the year.
E.g. species including golden plover, mallard and snipe may be killed, throughout the state, from 1st September in each year and ending on 31 January in the year immediately following that year.
Click HERE for the list of species types which may be hunted at certain times of the year under the Open Seasons Order (Birds)
BIRD SPECIES THAT CAN BE ‘CONTROLLED’
Article 9 of the Birds Directive allows Member States to make derogations from its protective measures in the interests of air safety, public health and safety, to protect flora and fauna and to prevent serious damage to crops, livestock, forests, fisheries and fauna.
The European Communities (Wildlife Act, 1976) (Amendment) Regulations, 1986 – (S.I. No. 254 of 1986) allow specific derogations to be implemented by way of Ministerial Declarations, which are renewed every four months.
E.g. under Air Safety regulations; species including gulls, starlings, lapwing and golden plover may be killed by a landowner on which a threat to air safety is represented by such species.
Hooded crows and magpie may be killed by a landowner where such species are likely to be a threat to public health and vector in the spread of animal disease, to prevent serious damage to livestock, or for the protection of fauna - notably the nests and young of game bird species.
Click HERE for information on the bird species that can be legitimately controlled, and the methods permitted.
The declarations are reviewed annually (end February) Visit the NPWS website for the ‘Consultation Notice on declarations’ if you want to submit your views.
The possession of eggs or the nest of a wild bird is a crime.
Birdwatchers often have ‘insider’ knowledge of nesting birds and therefore have a particular responsibility to be careful with that information. Egg thieves are known to mingle with ‘birders’ looking to pick up information, and follow birding forums and birding websites.
Please do not make it easy for egg thieves by openly discussing or posting information about the location of breeding birds EVEN if the breeding season is over – the thieves will monitor the site for the birds to return the following year.
The trapping, possession and sale of wild birds is a crime.
The keeping, breeding and showing of native finches and other passerines,which are closed-ringed specimens bred in captivity is a common and popular activity among bird fanciers and this activity is not subject to a licence.
Unfortunately finches and other passerines are sometimes taken illegally from the wild by means of traps, nets and birdlime and laundered as captive bred specimens and may be offered for sale at bird markets.
If you see; e.g. a net placed in a ‘suspicious’ site being used to trap wild birds, a lime stick (a stick smeared with birdlime) being used, or a finch/bunting (or similar small passerine) being used as a caged decoy, it is very likely that a crime is being committed and it should be recorded and reported immediately.
Please note that it takes skill and training to remove a bird from a net or a lime stick – please do not attempt to do so unless you are qualified; more damage could inadvertently be done to the bird.
Note: Licensed bird ringers may use mist and other nets to temporarily catch wild birds to ring and release for research purposes. During this operation, the ringers will always be on site checking their nets and are quite willing to explain their activity to anyone.
Some of our native and many exotic species of birds are protected by CITES
CITES stands for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora. It aims to control international trade in certain species of wild animal and plants where such trade threatens such species with extinction. It is enforced in Ireland through the Wildlife Acts and EU Regulations.
The trade, import/export and possession of LISTED SPECIES of wild fauna and flora is regulated by permits, certificates and licences issued by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Birds such as parrots and birds of prey can command high prices in the pet trade, which has led to some species being threatened with extinction in their place of origin.
Applications for LICENCES from NPWS are made to:
Wildlife Licensing Unit,
National Parks and Wildlife Service,
Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht,
7 Ely Place,
Tel: (01) 888 3242
Recording evidence at the Crime Scene
Assessing whether a criminal offence has taken place may not always be straight forward and other possibilities such as natural deaths, predation and legal hunting should be considered.
If you come across a wildlife crime scene or a dead bird or object that may be related to a wildlife crime, every piece of information is – or might be – important, but it needs to be recorded properly and accurately for the authorities to have a chance of prosecuting an offender.
Before you do anything else it is very important that:
|You do NOT put yourself in danger by approaching anyone you suspect of committing a crime – they may be violent and/or aggressive.|
|You do NOT touch any dead birds or animals. They may be poisoned baits or victims of poisoning. Many poisons (e.g. Carbofuran) are extremely dangerous to us as well as wildlife in even very small amounts and can be absorbed through the skin.|
|You do NOT disturb the scene by walking around unnecessarily - small pieces of evidence (cigarette ends, footprints, the marks left by a spade etc) may be lost or trampled into the mud or grass.|
|You do NOT move any items at the scene - unless asked to do so or an animal or human"s welfare is/may be compromised by leaving it at the scene.|
|You do NOT mark the site (e.g. with a white plastic bag) Although being able to see a marker from a distance might sound like a good idea, it will also alert an offender that someone has been at the site and they might go back and remove evidence.|
|You do NOT do anything illegal yourself - leave crime to the criminals!|
Once sure that it is safe to do so:
|Record the date and time|
|Record the transport Do this as soon as possible, as suspects can be traced from the registration number
Photograph/write down any vehicle registration numbers that are or might be related to the incident. It is legal to record a registration number if you suspect that the vehicle has been or may be used in a crime.
|Record the person
Recording the offender’s face is important of course, but their clothing, the bags they’re carrying, the equipment they’re using are all important too.
|Record the scene
Take photographs or video of the scene using a mobile phone or camera etc (or make as accurate a sketch as possible).
If possible try to cover any items, perhaps with vegetation, to make them safe; but make sure you don’t disturb the crime scene in the process!
If photographing an object, try to put something beside it for scale (e.g. a coin or notebook) providing it won’t disturb the crime scene.
|Record the location
It is particularly important to record locations accurately (apps that provide GPS data are available for most smartphones)
In an urban area note the address or a description of the location. In the countryside take wide angle photographs of any landmarks; a tree, a distinctive fence line, a hill.
|Even if in doubt take a photograph and email it to the National Parks and Wildlife Service firstname.lastname@example.org|
Reporting a bird crime
To report suspected illegal bird activity contact the National Parks & Wildlife Service
Tel: 01-888 3242 or LoCall 1890 383 000
If you can’t reach NPWS personnel call An Garda Síochána:
If the crime is in progress or about to happen, or if the offender is still at the scene or has just left call 999 or 112
If the event is finished then either call your local Garda Station (click HERE for station directory) or the Garda Confidential Telephone Number 1800 666 111
[Although it will assist the NPWS and Gardaí if you provide as much information as possible, you do not have to give your name if you ring to report an incident.]
If the bird is alive and is injured, also call a wildlife rehabilitator/vet from the contacts page of
If you witness any crime involving a bird, also contact
For more information on reporting and how to follow up on a reported crime click HERE